Schedule tour

SPA TALKS | Dr. Melissa Rice

Natalie Bennett March 18, 2016

On Thursday, March 10th from 2:20 – 3 p.m., Dr. Melissa Rice, an Assistant Professor of Planetary Science at Western Washington University, with a joint appointment in the Geology Department and the Physics and Astronomy Department, did a great job educating students at St. Paul’s Academy about planetary geology and astronomy in the school’s sixth SPA TALKS event (A Platform Where Ideas and Inspiration are Shared). She tied her talk into the school’s Core Commitment of engage and left students curious and inspired. The SPA TALKS are always open and free to the public. A mom at St. Paul’s Academy, Ally S., summarized the presentation best saying, “Not only a brilliant woman, but she could really connect with kids.”

Dr. Rice showed images taken by the NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) and Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) missions, which she uses every day for her research. Many students came away asking more questions and fascinated with space. Fourth grade student Matthew H. reflected after the event saying, “I liked how she showed us how much the rovers evolved. It surprised me how much Mars looks like Earth.” Another one of our 4th grade students Gurkaran B. explained, “She inspired me to follow my dreams and never give up.” We were thrilled to have her share her research to help inspire our students to think about possibly pursuing a career in science and engineering.

Dr Rice Photo

“She interested me to think about going to Mars when I grow up,” said 4th Grader Mathew H. She captivated students, community members and parents by talking about missions and planet research and reinforced the value of our school’s Core Commitment of engage. Evan M. a student in 5th grade explained, “I thought that Dr. Melissa Rice’s talk about engagement was humorous, inspirational, and fun to watch. I also thought that the topic, MARS rovers was very interesting. It really made me think about the future of homo-sapiens.”


Our kids started in preschool and have continued ever since, now in 3rd and 5th grade. The small class size allows for personal attention from the warm and encouraging teachers and it allows the educators to keep their classrooms focused. We’ve found the school to be truly committed to educating the whole child with strong academics and offering moral/ethical education through weekly chapel. The teachers and administration have high expectations for their students and this is reflected in their curriculum. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to send our children here.- Laurence and Kathryn Cambron, 2015-2016 Annual Report



More about Dr. Melissa Rice:

Dr. Melissa Rice is an Assistant Professor of Planetary Science at Western Washington University, with a joint appointment in the Geology Department and the Physics & Astronomy Department. She received her Ph.D. in the Department of Astronomy at Cornell University, and before arriving at Western she was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the sedimentology, stratigraphy and mineralogy of planetary surfaces. The current role of her work is to help constrain the habitability of ancient environments on Mars. She is a collaborator on the active NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity and Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity missions. Dr. Rice’s research with students at Western involves analyzing the multispectral imaging data from the rover missions. In addition, she is a member of the team that is designing and building the cameras that will be part of NASA’s next Mars rover, launching to Mars in 2020.


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