Moogega Cooper, Ph.D.

Group Supervisor
Office: 818-393-7795


Moogega received her Bachelors Degree in Physics from Hampton University in 2006. She successively enrolled in Drexel University where she received her Masters and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in thermal fluid sciences. Her dissertation studies involved non-equilibrium plasma sterilization of spacecraft materials so it was a logical transition to work for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Planetary Protection Group. She has been at JPL for 11 years, working on spacecraft to include Mars Science Laboratory, InSight, Mars 2020 as the Lead of Planetary Protection, and the Europa Lander concept. She is currently the 353N Group Supervisor of the Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group. Her passion is education and outreach as well as leveraging her Ph.D. research by developing sterilization capabilities that could potentially be applied to the returned sample from Mars.

Research Interests

  • Microbial populations in spacecraft assembly facilities
  • Low biomass sample collection
  • Plasma sterilization and sterilization methodologies in general

Professional Experience

Planetary Protection Engineer, JPL, Aug 2011 – Present, Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group.

Caltech Postdoctoral Scholar, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, Jan 2010 – Aug 2011, Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group, Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology Group.

Graduate Student Research Scientist, September 2006 – December 2009, Drexel Plasma Institute, Drexel University.

Co-op Student, June 2003 to September 2006, NASA Langley Research Center.

Student Data Analyst, July 2002 to May 2005, Center for Atmospheric Sciences, Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia.

Selected Awards

2021 KTLA Black History Month Visionaries

The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans in 2020

JPL Team award “For the successful support and execution of Mars 2020 Project Systems Engineering tasks leading up to launch.” 8/21/2020

2019 Bruce Murray Award. “For exemplary and innovative efforts in inspiring the next generation of women and children in STEM with special emphasis on underserved communities.”

NASA Early Career Public Achievement Medal. “For outstanding early career achievement in developing new molecular biology technologies and PP flight project implementation.” 2018.

2018 Charles Elachi Award for exceptional early career achievement, 2018.

2018 Voyager Award. “For technical and leadership excellence leading to the Return Sample Biological Contamination Control Review during Phase C of M2020.”

JDrexel University 40 under 40 award. 2015.

NASA Group Achievement Award, “For exceptional performance in the rigorous evaluation and rapid synthesis of a development strategy for the Mars Sample Return Planetary Protection technology.” October 2012.

Selected Publications

Benardini, James N., Stricker, Moogega, and Venkateswaran, Kasthuri J., “Biological Contamination Control and Planetary Protection Measures as Applied to Sample Acquisition.” p.313. Advances in Extraterrestrial Drilling. Yoseph Bar-Cohen. Taylor & Francis Group, 2020. ISBN 0367653478.

Mikellides, et al. “Experiments in particle resuspension and transport for the assessment of terrestrial-borne biological contamination of the samples on the mars 2020 mission, Planetary and Space Science, Volume 181, 2020, 104793.

Mikellides, et al. “Modelling and simulations of particle resuspension and transport for the assessment of terrestrial-borne biological contamination of the samples on the mars 2020 mission, Planetary and Space Science, Volume 181, 2020, 104792.

Malli Mohan, G.B., Stricker, M.C. & Venkateswaran, K. Microscopic Characterization of Biological and Inert Particles Associated with Spacecraft Assembly Cleanroom. Sci Rep 9, 14251 (2019).

R. D. Robinson, R. Rakhmanov, M. Cooper-Stricker and D. Dobrynin, "Subatmospheric Pressure Microsecond Spark Discharge Plasma Jet for Surface Decontamination," in IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, vol. 47, no. 10, pp. 4677-4682, Oct. 2019, doi: 10.1109/TPS.2019.2936996.

Ioannis G. Mikellides, et al., The viscous Fluid Mechanical Particle Barrier for the prevention of sample contamination on the Mars 2020 mission, Planetary and Space Science, Vol. 142, August 2017, Pages 53-68.

Cooper, Moogega, and Christina Stam. "Nucleic Acid Purification from Soil and Environmental Sources." Sample Preparation Techniques for Soil, Plant, and Animal Samples (2016): 307-314.

Stam, Christina, Alberto Behar, and Moogega Cooper. "Sampling of Microbiological Samples." Sample Preparation Techniques for Soil, Plant, and Animal Samples (2016): 25-39.

Cooper, Moogega, et al. "Comparison of innovative molecular approaches and standard spore assays for assessment of surface cleanliness." Applied and environmental microbiology 77.15 (2011): 5438-5444.

Joshi, Suresh G., et al. "Nonthermal dielectric-barrier discharge plasma-induced inactivation involves oxidative DNA damage and membrane lipid peroxidation in Escherichia coli." Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy55.3 (2011): 1053-1062.

Kwan, K., et al. "Evaluation of procedures for the collection, processing, and analysis of biomolecules from low-biomass surfaces." Applied and environmental microbiology 77.9 (2011): 2943-2953.

CL#: 17-1953, 18-1585

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