Dr. Morgan L. Cable
Dr. Morgan L. Cable is a Research Scientist in the Instrument Systems Implementation and Concepts Section at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. She is also a Project Science Systems Engineer for the Cassini Mission, which has been exploring the Saturn system for over 10 years.
Morgan’s research focuses on organic and biomarker detection strategies, through both in situ and remote sensing techniques. While earning her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, she designed receptor sites for the detection of bacterial spores, the toughest form of life. As a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at JPL, Morgan developed novel protocols to analyze organics such as amines and fatty acids using small, portable microfluidic sensors. She is currently working as a Collaborator on the Mapping Imaging Spectrometer for Europa (MISE), an instrument selected for NASA’s next mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa; this spectrometer will map Europa’s surface and search for organics, salts and minerals.
Dr. Cable’s research interests also include ‘weird’ life. She has performed laboratory experiments to study the liquid hydrocarbon lakes of Titan, a moon of Saturn. She has been involved in several studies led by the Keck Institute for Space Studies, the most recent of which was to explore what kinds of life could survive or even thrive in exotic solvents (other than liquid water).
In addition to biomarker sensor design and the search for ‘weird’ life, Morgan has also explored several extreme environments on Earth that serve as analogs for other places in the solar system, such as Mars. She was involved in research expeditions to the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert in Chile, and to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Morgan has also co-led a team of young researchers on multiple expeditions to Iceland to study how life colonizes a fresh lava field. The goal of this work is to inform future Mars sample return missions in terms of sample selection, preservation and analysis.