DR. DAVID W. MITTLEFEHLDT, known far and wide as "duck" (a nickname he acquired while at Fredonia), is a scientist
in the Astromaterials Research Office at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC). He spends
his time pursuing research on the formation of meteorites and how they relate to the
early history of the solar system, and in studies of the geology of Mars. His major
interests are achondrite and stony iron meteorites - those meteorites that have been
heated enough to have suffered igneous processing - and martian meteorites. He studies
the petrology and geochemistry of these materials using optical microscopy, electron
microprobe analysis, instrumental neutron activation analysis, solution and laser
ablation inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry, and a pot of coffee to defog
Duck earned a BS in Geology from SUNY College at Fredonia in 1973, and a Ph.D. in
Geochemistry from UCLA in 1978. It was at UCLA, quite by chance, that he began his
long, intimate association with meteorites, first in the research group led by Prof.
George W. Wetherill, and later with Prof. John T. Wasson. With degree in hand, he
sojourned far and wide through many research, academic and governmental institutions
in the US and abroad, finally landing in Houston at JSC in 1985. In 2000, NASA hired
him as a scientist, where he manages the gamma-ray spectroscopy laboratory, is in
the process of setting up an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry laboratory,
and participates in planning daily operations for the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity
Duck was a team member on the 1997, 2001 and 2004 Antarctic Search for Meteorites
(ANSMET) field teams. He was an Associate Editor for Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta from 1992 to 1997, and began a second stint in 2002. Duck was an Associate Editor
for Meteoritics & Planetary Science from 1998 to 2004. He has served on review panels for NASA’s Cosmochemistry Program,
and on committees for the Meteoritical Society. Duck co-convened two scientific workshops
jointly sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and the NASA Cosmochemistry
Program. He served as Acting Meteorite Curator for NASA/JSC in 2001. Duck is a Principal
Investigator in NASA's Cosmochemistry Program, and is a Participating Scientist on
the Mars Exploration Rover Mission.
Duck was elected a Fellow of the Meteoritical Society in 1996. In 2002, in recognition
of his work in meteorite research, the International Astronomical Union approved naming
an asteroid in his honor – 5760 Mittlefehldt. In 2003, duck was presented with an
Outstanding Achievement Award from the Alumni Affairs Office of SUNY Fredonia. In
May 2007 duck returned to SUNY Fredonia to give the commencement address at the morning
commencement ceremony and received a Doctorate of Science (Honorary) from the State
University of New York. He has published extensively on the petrology and geochemistry
of meteorites, and on the mineralogy and geochemistry of Mars surface rocks and soils.
He is the author or co-author of over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters,
20 invited articles, and 200 conference abstracts.
To maintain internal equilibrium, duck does volunteer work at the Houston Zoo. Two
mornings a month he helps in the primate section, and one morning a month duck works
the elephant yard, where his 20+ years of experience working at a government facility
makes him a master at shoveling massive quantities of ...