- Professor Monica Grady CBE
Professor Monica Grady is a leading British meteoritics and space scientist, the present Head of the Department and Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences (since 2005), and the director of the Cosmo chemistry Research group at the Open University (OU),Milton Keynes, UK. Moreover, she is also the Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, also in the UK. Prior to her position at OU, she was at the Department of Mineralogy at the Natural History Museum in London, where she headed the Meteorite team.
Professor Grady is a Fellow and former President of the Meteoritical Society, fellow of the Institute of Physics and Geochemical Society and former fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, all in the UK. Throughout her career spanning over three and a half decades, she has built up an international reputation in meteoritics, publishing numerous papers on the carbon and nitrogen isotope geochemistry of primitive meteorites, Martian meteorites, as well as interstellar components of meteorites.
Grady’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of the Solar System, and how to extrapolate information regarding this from study of asteroids, meteorites, comets and cosmic dust, the Moon and Mars. Most of her current research work is related to the study of the role of carbon in planetary evolution, and the links between the carbon chemistry of extra-terrestrial materials and the origin of life on Earth and possibly, beyond.
Professor Grady obtained her undergraduate degree in 1979 from the departments of Chemistry and Geology, Durham University, where she was also a member of St Aidan’s College. Her postgraduate studies were at the University of Cambridge, where she completed her PhD in 1983 on the subject of carbon in meteorites.
She subsequently worked at the Open University, before joining the Department of Mineralogy of the Natural History Museum, London, first as a Higher Scientific Officer with responsibility for meteorites, to eventually as Head of the Meteorites and Cosmic Mineralogy Division. Prof. Grady was a Honorary Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London from 2004 to 2007 and Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute at the Open University in 2001, before re-joining the OU in 2005 in her current position.
Professor Grady has led major research programmes in the study of meteorites. Her research interests are in the fields of carbon and nitrogen stable isotope geochemistry of primitive meteorites and of Martian meteorites, interstellar components in meteorites, micrometeorites, and also in astrobiology and the possibilities of life elsewhere in the cosmos.
One of her major areas of research has been in trying to understand the history of carbon and water formation on Mars.She and her team have pursued this through investigation of minor components in Martian meteorites, components that were formed by alteration processes on the surface of Mars.
She also has expertise in infrared and optical micro spectroscopy, and has worked with astronomers in order to make connections between dust observed around stars with that analysed in the laboratory. Prof. Grady is currently working with a team of Norwegian scientists to develop a miniature combined infrared spectrometer and microscope, for deployment on the surface of Mars or a suitable asteroid in the Mars-Jupiter Asteroid Belt.
Professor Grady is a member of STFC’s Science Board and ESA’s Solar System Advisory Committee. She was an Associate editor of Geochimica Chemica Acta from 2002 to 2005 and of Elements from 2004 to 2007. Asteroid 4731 were named “Monica Grady” in the honour of her work by the International Astronomical Union. In June 2012, she was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), in recognition of her services to space science. In July 2019, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate honoris causa by Liverpool Hope University for her work in communication of science and faith.
Grady is an enthusiastic science communicator and therefore, in 2003, she gave the Royal Institution Christmas lecture on the theme ‘Voyage in Space and Time’. She is particularly passionate about taking her research forward into the classroom and inspires the future generation of astronomers and space scientists, which she believes the UK space science industry is heavily reliant upon.
Grady is a practising Catholic. Her youngest sister, Dr Ruth Grady, is a Senior Lecturer in microbiology at the University of Manchester. Grady’s husband, Professor Ian Wright, is also a planetary scientist at the Open University. Ian was Principal Investigator of the Ptolemy instrument on the Philae Lander, part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft. Grady has one son, Jack Wright, who works in the film industry.