Madeleine Kerr

  • Program Year: 2
  • Academic Institution: University of California, San Diego
  • Field of Study: Geophysics
  • Academic Advisor: David Stegman
  • Practicum(s): Practicum Not Yet Completed
  • Degree(s):
    B.S. Physics, and B.S. Theatre, Harvey Mudd College, 2020

Summary of Research

In planetary science, there are conflicting ideas about Venus's evolution from its formation to the present. In terms of composition, Venus should be Earth's closest analog; yet it lacks a key feature: plate tectonics, the Earth's main method of heat discharge. If not through tectonics, how do we explain evidence from impact craters that Venus has been completely resurfaced in the last billion years? Some researchers believe Venus regularly undergoes a catastrophic resurfacing event. Others believe circular features called coronae are evidence of thermal plumes, buoyant upwellings which resurface a localized area. Without a surface mission to Venus (too hot!), we investigate these theories through numerical simulations. My goal is to address this ''plume-thermal dichotomy,'' by using 2D numerical models of a Venusian mantle using a geodynamic code called StagYY to investigate the relationship between lithosphere subduction and the formation of mantle plumes on Venus. I'm also very interested in learning more about the role that art, particularly performance art and other ephemeral arts, plays in engaging the public in scientific research.


Pusok, A. E., Stegman, D. R., & Kerr, M. (2022). The effect of low-viscosity sediments on the dynamics and accretionary style of subduction margins. Solid Earth, 13(9), 1455-1473.


NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention, 2020
Graduated with High Distinction, Harvey Mudd College, 2020
Departmental Honors in Physics, Harvey Mudd College, 2020
The Thomas B. Brown Award for senior research in Physics, Harvey Mudd College, 2020
Departmental Honors in Humanities/Social Sciences/Arts, Harvey Mudd College, 2020
The William and Margaret Radley Prize in Humanities/Social Sciences/Arts, Harvey Mudd College, 2020
Dean's List, Harvey Mudd College, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
NSF REU Award in Science Communication through Theatre, University of Chicago, 2019
NSF REU Award in Computational Geodynamics, UC San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, 2018