Dr. Danna Qasim

Research Scientist at Southwest Research Institute

Center for Laboratory Astrophysics and Space Science Experiments

Planetary Science Program

Space Science Division

San Antonio, Texas, USA


E-mail: danna.qasim@swri.org
Skype:  dannaqasim
Office number: (1) 210-522-4669
Southwest Research Institute
6220 Culebra Rd, San Antonio, TX 78238, USA
B263 - Room 2.226

Brief bio
I utilize experiments and astronomical observations/missions to study the (ice) chemistry that occurs from interstellar clouds to our moons and planets within the Center for Laboratory Astrophysics and Space Science Experiments. More information on my latest research can be found in my Google Scholar and ResearchGate profiles. 

As a member of the JWST Director's Discretionary Early Release Science Ice Age Program, contact me for inquiries about JWST observations of interstellar ices: http://jwst-iceage.org/contact/

What am I?

I get this question a lot! I am a US citizen born overseas in Kuwait, and am half South Korean and ~half Palestinian (some mix).    

Active research interests

Solar System ices/gases/minerals/salts/liquids
Interstellar ices/gases/minerals/salts
The role of mineral surfaces in catalyzing reactions
Connecting interstellar chemistry to solar system chemistry


11/2022 -  Present
Research Scientist
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, TX

8/2020 - 10/2022

Postdoctoral Researcher
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (employed by Howard University), Greenbelt, MD

7/2013 - 8/2014

Junior Analytical Chemist
Kimberly-Clark Corporation (employed by Sunrise Systems), Roswell, GA

6/2012 - 5/2013

Graduate teaching and research assistant
Emory University, Atlanta, GA


PhD Astronomy, 07/2016 - 07/2020: Leiden University, Leiden, the Netherlands. Advisors: Prof. dr. Harold Linnartz and Prof. dr. Ewine van Dishoeck; Co-advisor: Dr. Gleb Fedoseev. Thesis: Dark ice chemistry in interstellar clouds

MSc Chemical Sciences, 08/2014 - 05/2016: Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA. Advisor: Prof. dr. Heather Abbott-Lyon. Thesis: Understanding the surface induced phosphorylation of prebiotic molecules by schreibersite

BSc Chemistry (minor astronomy), 08/2008 - 05/2012: Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ.

Selected grants and awards
PI NASA ROSES New Frontiers Data Analysis Program 2023: Quantitative Assessment on Spectral Darkening of Icy Regions Across Ganymede
PI JWST Cycle 3 AR Program: Quantitative Study on the Search for Sulfur-bearing Molecular Ice Signatures
Co-I  JWST Cycle 2 GO Program:  Ice observations toward massive protostars in the low-metallicity Large Magellanic Cloud (PI: Marta Sewilo)
Co-I JWST Cycle 2 GO Program: iCe astrocHemistry at the EdgE of a staR-formIng clOud (CHEERIO): Cha I (PI: Dr. Zak Smith)
Co-I JWST Cycle 1 GO program: It's COMplicated: Disentangling the formation pathways of complex organic molecules from molecular clouds to comets (PI: Prof. dr. Melissa McClure)
Co-I JWST Cycle 1 GO program: A chemical census of volatile ices in protostellar envelopes (PI: Dr. Klaus Pontoppidan)
Co-I GBT Large Survey: The GBT L1544 Unbiased Complex Organics SurvEy (GLUCOSE)
Co-I Hubble Cycle 30 GO program: Observing the Ice Giants with Hubble WFC3 to Enhance Cycle 1 James Webb Space Telescope Data (PI: Dr. Naomi Rowe-Gurney)

International Astronomical Union 2020 PhD Prize in Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
ACS Astrochemistry 2021 Outstanding Dissertation Award
NASA Postdoctoral Fellowship Program 2020 (declined)
NASA GSFC Sciences and Exploration Directorate 2022 DEIA award
NASA Agency Honor Award 2022 DEIA

NASA GSFC Solar System Exploration Division 2022 Peer Award
NASA GSFC Solar System Exploration Division 2022 Special Thanks And Recognition (STAR) award

Selected recent outreach

NASA CONNECTORS, NASA GSFC, Greenbelt, MD (2020 – 2022) 

Lead organizer and co-founder with Dr. Stefanie Milam of NASA CONNECTORS (CONNECting high school students TO ResearcherS). This mentorship program connects NASA researchers to underrepresented high school students to establish professional connections between research professionals and minority students. The long-term aim is to increase the number of minority groups in STEAM. 

This mentorship program led to 3 NASA GSFC awards: 2022 DEIA, Peer and STAR awards 

Panelist representing NASA science at Awesome Con, Washington, DC (06/2022)
    Engaged with the public in the panel, “To the Solar System, and Beyond!: Oceans and Ices”. 

Selected professional development

NASA ROSES panel reviewer
Host of SwRI's Space Science Seminar Series
SOC member of DPS-EPSC 2023 

Selected favorite publications


Selected invited talks and presentations

Workshop on Interstellar Matter (11/2023)
Pushing Astrochemistry into the Solar System through Mission Science; Hokkaido, Japan

Laboratory studies of interstellar methane ice in the era of JWST  (08/2022)
International Astronomical Union General Assembly; Busan, Korea 

Astrochemistry of Extraterrestrial Ices: The Academic Journey of a NASA Postdoctoral Scientist (2/2022)
Benedictine College Physics and Astronomy Colloquium (virtual meeting)

The Interstellar Connection: D/H ratios of Aliphatics from Interstellar Space to our Solar System (11/2021)
NASA Astrobiology Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environments (PCE3) Seminar Series

Exploring solid-state carbon atom chemistry: The formation of CH4 ice by C- and H-atom addition (6/2021)
ACS-Astrochemistry subdivision online seminar series

Experimental investigations and astronomical observations of interstellar ices (11/2020)
STScI Exoplanets, Star and Planet Formation Seminar Series (virtual meeting)

Dark ice chemistry in interstellar clouds (6/2020)
UCF AVS Astrochemistry Webinar Series

259th ACS Meeting: Astrochemical complexity in planetary systems (declined; 03/2022)

Combined laboratory and theoretical study on formation of alcohols in the H2O-rich ice phase of prestellar cores (08/2019)
258th ACS Meeting: Water in the Universe; San Diego, CA

Synthesis of solid-state COMs through accretion of simple species at low temperatures (7/2019)
Space Science & Astrobiology Division Seminar; NASA Ames Research Center

Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride.

– Anthony Bourdain