Donna M. Pierce

Donna M. Pierce

Donna M. Pierce

Associate Professor, Astrophysics

132 Hilbun Hall
Mississippi State, MS 39762

Dr. Donna Pierce is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at Mississippi State University. Her research concerns the physical and chemical properties of comets. She collaborates with observational astronomers to build interpretive models of the chemistry and structure of comet atmospheres that are in turn used to determine chemical and physical properties of comet nuclei. Comets represent some of the most primitive material in the solar system and thus may provide clues to the process of forming planets.

Graduate Students

  • Sara Paugh, PhD TBD
  • Ahmad Sohani, MS-T 2023, PhD TBD
  • Ien Harris, MS-T 2022
  • Benjamin Lewis, MS-T 2016
  • Charles Vaughan, PhD 2015
  • Chandrasiri Ihalawela, MS-T 2009

Teaching Areas

  • PH 1063 Descriptive Astronomy
  • PH 1123 General Physics II
  • PH 1133 General Physics III
  • PH 2213 Physics I
  • PH 3063 Astrophysics
  • PH 3613 Modern Physics
  • PH 4000 Directed Individual Study
  • PH 4513/6513 Optics
  • PH 6990 Astrophysics


  • Ph. D. Astronomy, University of Maryland, 2006
  • M.S. Astronomy, University of Maryland, 2000
  • B.S. Physics, University of Kentucky, 1997


  • 2013-present: Associate Professor, Mississippi State University
  • 2007-2013: Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University
  • 2005-2006: Postdoctoral and Research Fellow, University of Texas
  • 2000-2005: Research Assistant, University of Maryland
  • 1999-2000: Teaching Assistant, University of Maryland

Research Interests

  • Comet science and astrochemistry
  • Planet formation process

Recent Publications

Selected Presentations at Conferences/Workshops

American Astronomical Society 

Sohani, A., and Pierce, D. 2022. Outburst Simulations of Cometary Nuclei, Bull. Am. Astron. Soc., 54, 6.

University of Maryland

Pierce, D. M., & Cochran, A. L. 2019. Fragment Species in the Comae of Several Comets Observed with an Integral Field Unit Spectrograph and the Unusual Case of 168P/Hergenrother, A Symposium in Celebration of Mike A’Hearn, College Park, MD, August 6 - 8, 2019

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Bruce, L. M., McNeal, K. S., Pierce, D., Radencic, R., Schmitz, D. INSPIRE: Linking Graduate Students with K12 Teachers to Address Remote Sensing Educational Needs. International Geoscience and Remote Sensing Symposium (IGARSS), Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, 13 – 18 July 2014

Honors/Professional Activities

  • Currently serving on 5 committees, with service in 20+ committees as Chair, Director, or Member
  • Phi Beta Kappa, Secretary, Charter Member and Committee on Members-in-Course
  • Judge for several Presentations, Fairs, and Awards
  • 2012 Faculty Appreciation Award, Bagley College of Engineering Office of Diversity Programs, Mississippi State University
  • 2000 Distinguished Teaching Assistant, University of Maryland Center for Teaching Excellence
  • 2000 Outstanding Teaching Assistant, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland
  • 1997-1999 High Energy Astrophysics Fellowship, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
  • 1997 Outstanding Senior Physics Major, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Kentucky