Dr. Emma Mitchell

Dr. Emma Mitchell

Science Department Chair, Physics Faculty



B.A., Vassar College
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Emma received her Bachelor’s degree in physics from Vassar College in 2009, where she also was senior editor of the college newspaper. She taught physics and chemistry at her alma mater, Emma Willard School, before earning a Ph.D. in applied physics at the University of Virginia in 2016. Her Ph.D. research was in laboratory astrophysics and astrochemistry, focusing on thermal and radiation processing of frozen water in astronomical environments. As a graduate student, she was awarded fellowships by both the NASA Earth and Space Science Program and the NASA Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Emma lives with her rescue border collie, Davy.

What was your favorite subject when you were in middle or high school? Why?

My favorite subject for most of my schooling years was English! I was and continue to be an avid reader. Even though I ended up going into science, I have a deep love and respect for the humanities.

What is your favorite part of the subject(s) you teach now?

I love that Physics is a subject that students can discover for themselves through classroom experimentation, collaboration, and discussion. I think it is the coolest thing to guide and coach students as they design experiments that uncover the laws governing our universe. Through these experiments, my students can propose models for how the underlying physics works, and we can then test and hone these models through more group work and experimentation. Then the cycle continues! This process is so exciting to me, and I love passing this on to my students. Even if they don’t end up going into science as a career, this helps them learn how to problem-solve and persevere as they tackle challenges.

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

Cooking and baking are my biggest hobbies. I love cooking from scratch, making bread, and I have even baked a few wedding cakes. Other hobbies include reading, running, going on adventures with my border collie, and crossword puzzles.

What other roles do you hold on campus?

Smith Dorm Head, Thirds Volleyball Head Coach

What is the most rewarding part about working at Walker’s?

The most rewarding part of working at Walker’s is the students! We have the most incredible students here, and they make my job so fulfilling every day. They are gutsy, warm, open-minded, and uniquely themselves.

Please list any awards, fellowships, or distinctions you have earned during your career:

1. NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (2013 – 2016)

2. NASA Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellowship (2013 – 2015)

3. Conference presentation for American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences (2015)
Title: Porosity Effects on Crystallization Kinetics of Amorphous Solid Water: Implications for Cold Icy Objects in the Outer Solar System

3. Conference presentation for From Interstellar Ices to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: A Symposium to Honor Lou Allamandola’s Contributions to the Molecular Universe (2015)
Title: Ion Irradiation of H2-Laden Porous Water Ice Films: Implications for Interstellar Ices

4. Conference presentation for Lunar Planetary Institute: A Wet vs. Dry Moon (2011)
Title: Desorption of Adsorbed H2O on the Moon by Solar Photons

Please list any notable publications on which you are author or co-author:

1. Porosity Effects on Crystallization Kinetics of Amorphous Solid Water: Implications for Cold Icy Objects in the Outer Solar System.
Icarus (2017)
Authors: Mitchell, Raut, Teolis, and Baragiola

2. Ion Irradiation of H2-Laden Water Ice Films: Implications for Interstellar Ices
The Astrophysical Journal (2015)
Authors: Raut, Mitchell, and Baragiola

3. Ultraviolet Photodesorption as a Driver of Water Migration on the Lunar Surface
Planetary and Space Science (2014)
Authors: Mitchell, Raut, Fulvio, Schaible, Dukes, and Baragiola