Tomasz F. Stepinski

Short bio

Dr. Stepinski is the Thomas Jefferson Chair Professor of Space Exploration at the University of Cincinnati. For 20 years, until September 2010, he was a staff scientist at the NASA-funded Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas where he worked on fundamental issues in multiple disciplines including: the origin and role of magnetic fields in protoplanetary disks, the diversity of planetary systems from evolutionary models of protoplanetary disks, the usage of genetic algorithms for the derivation of orbital parameters of exoplanets, the origins of Martian valley networks from their fractal properties, the utilization of machine vision for automating cataloging craters and mapping valley networks on Mars, and the application of machine learning for classification of cosmic dust particles. Dr. Stepinski received the M.Sc. degree in astrophysics from Warsaw University and his Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Arizona.

He is a native of Poland, where he obtained his masters degree in astrophysics from the Department of Physics at Warsaw University. His masters thesis was on light variations of Be stars and was supervised by Bohdan Paczynski. After graduation he worked at the Polish Academy of Science N. Copernicus Astronomical Center as a research assistant. He left Poland in 1980 to further pursue his education at the University of Arizona. At UofA Tom enrolled into the Program in Applied Mathematics while completing research at the Department of Planetary Science. He obtained a PhD in Applied Mathematics in 1986. His PhD thesis, supervised by Eugene H. Levy, was on the generation of magnetic fields in astrophysical disks. He continued at UofA as a post doc until 1990 when he moved to the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Research interests

Tom is a leading geoscientist in the automated detection and characterization of landforms from remotely sensed spatial data sets. He and his collaborators pioneered methods for auto-survey of craters and auto-mapping of valley networks on Mars using digital terrain data. His current research focuses on extending these methods to larger sets of imagery data. He started an initiative to develop a system for the query and retrieval of landscapes. This work is designed to provide scientists with the ability to search global datasets to identify terrain or land cover patterns most similar to those in their study areas. Since joining the geography faculty at the University of Cincinnati he has begun to apply data mining techniques to topics in environmental and human geography.


  • Made first computer model of MHD dynamo in disk-like geometry to study generation of magnetic fields in protoplanetary disks.
  • Made first complete assessment of ionization regime in the Solar Nebula and established conditions and time frame for dynamically important nebular magnetic field.
  • Developed global evolutionary models of protoplanetary disks that included both gaseous and solid components. These models allowed to assess potential diversity of planetary systems and helped to explain curious orbital properties of initially discovered exoplanets.
  • Developed first objective and quantitative method for comparison of Martial valley networks to terrestrial river systems. Shown that amongst all terrestrial networks only those located in hype-arid Atacama desert resembles Martian valleys indicating arid climatic conditions on early Mars.
  • Developed algorithm for automatic cataloging of Martian crater. This led to the global catalog of 75,000+ Martian craters listing, for the first time their depts. Resultant global map of crater depths confirmed previous ideas about distribution of subsurface ice.
  • Developed a machine vision based method for mapping auto-mapping landforms, an important step toward query and retrieval of landscapes.

More info

Google Scholar profile


2 pages CV

Published on  June 1st, 2015


Department of Physics at Warsaw University. Physics and astronomy have been present in Warsaw University since its very foundation, in 1816. More...

The Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences was founded in 1978 thanks to help from the American astronomical community. CAMK was one of the pioneers of numerical computing methods, networks and Internet in Poland. More ...

Interdisciplinary Program in Applied Mathematics at the University of Arizona is a highly regarded graduate program. More ...

Department of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona is a major center for research in planetary science. More ...

The Lunar and Planetary Institute carries out research in support the NASA's efforts to explore the solar system. More ...