Diane Michelangeli, a planetary scientist and at one time principal investigator behind a team of researchers in charge of a meteorology station on the Phoenix Lander, has died at age 45. Diane, whose 20 years of work in atmospheric science made her a natural choice to lead the Canadian contribution to the Phoenix Mars lander, passed away on August 30, 2007 of cancer.
She had been suffering from metastatic cancer for the past few years, fighting every step of the way, having encouraging periods of remission but finally succumbing to a series of brain tumours.
Diane earned her degrees in Chemistry and Space Science from McGill University and the California Institute of Technology. She joined the Faculty of Science and Engineering at York University in 1999 as a holder of a University Faculty Award and Professor of Atmospheric Science. She also became a valued member of both the Centre for Research in Earth and Space Science (CRESS) and the Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry (CAC). Prior to that she had worked at University of Toronto and in local Environmental Consulting companies on issues related to air quality but her real goals were to teach and to carry on her research related to the atmospheres of Earth, and especially, Mars. Winning a highly competitive University Faculty Award offered her that opportunity. Her work on modelling chemical process, particularly the impact of aerosols, has significance not only for Mars but also on research here on Earth.
Diane excelled at and enjoyed teaching, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. During her years at York, 2 MSc and 5 PhD students earned their degrees under her supervision. It is a great tribute to her dedication that, while her health was seriously compromised by cancer, she devoted significant efforts to helping her students toward completion of their graduate degrees.
The Phoenix mission gave Diane the opportunity to play an important role in Mars-related research, and she led the Canadian Science Team for the Phoenix Mars mission as the Principal Investigator for MET. MET is the Canadian meteorological package provided by CSA for the Phoenix mission. Phoenix successfully launched toward Mars August 4, 2007 and is now well on its way. Together with her students and post-doctoral researchers she developed modelling capabilities that will be essential tools to interpret the data that will be acquired by the Canadian MET instruments on the surface of Mars. It is especially sad that she will not be able to see the fruits of this work when Phoenix lands on Mars in May.
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