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 the brain.
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,
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 on Mars.
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
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 ...