Astrobiology Faculty

Meet our dedicated Georgia Tech Astrobiology faculty!

Mariel Borowitz

International Affairs

Mariel Borowitz is an Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. Her research deals with international space policy issues, including international cooperation in Earth observing satellites and satellite data sharing policies. She also focuses on strategy and developments in space security and space situational awareness. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Masters degree in International Science and Technology Policy from the George Washington University, and a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Maryland. Dr. Borowitz completed a detail as a policy analyst for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC from 2016 to 2018. Her book, “Open Space: The Global Effort for Open Access to Environmental Satellite Data,” was published by MIT Press in 2017.

Christopher Carr

Aerospace Engineering & Earth Atmos Sciences

Christopher Carr is an engineer/scientist with training in aero/astro and electrical engineering, medical physics, and molecular biology. His lab applies single molecule detection technologies to instrument development for life detection beyond Earth. He is a Research Scientist at MIT in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, a Research Fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital in the Department of Molecular Biology, and a Scott M. Johnson Fellow in the U.S. Japan Leadership Program. He will join the Georgia Tech faculty as an Assistant Professor in summer 2020, with a joint appointment in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering (AE) and School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS).

Jennifer Glass

Earth & AtmosPHERIC Sciences

Jennifer Glass is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She earned Bachelors degrees in Earth Sciences and Oceanography from the University of Washington, and a PhD in Geological Sciences from Arizona State University. She was a NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow at Caltech from 2011-2013. She joined Georgia Tech as a faculty member in 2013. Her group studies the early evolution of life on Earth and the habitability of gas hydrates. She is a member of the Oceans Across Space and Time (OAST) and Center for the Origin of Life (COOL), and director of the Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Program.


Ask-An-Astrobiologist: Jennifer Glass

Martha Grover

Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Martha Grover is a Professor in the School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and ChBE’s Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. She earned a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a MS and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Caltech. She joined Georgia Tech as a faculty member in 2003. She is a member of the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, and its faculty lead for education, outreach, and diversity.

Nicholas Hud

Chemistry & biochemistry

Nicholas Hud is a Regent’s Professor in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry. He received his bachelors degree from Loyola Marymount University and his PhD from University of California Davis. He was a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and at UCLA. He joined the faculty of the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech in 1999. He currently serves as Director of the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution (CCE), and as Associate Director of the Parker H. Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB). He was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2019, Fellow of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life in 2014, and was a Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer 2015-2017.

Margaret Kosal

International Affairs

Margaret Kosal is an Associate Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and director of the Sam Nunn Security Program. She holds a bachelors degree in Chemistry from the University of Southern California and a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining the Georgia Tech faculty in 2008, she co-founded of a sensor company, served as Science and Technology Advisor in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and as an Associate to the National Intelligence Council. From 2012-2013, she served as a Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. Her research explores the relationships among technology, strategy, and governance.

Gongjie Li

Physics

Gongjie Li is an Assistant Professor in the School of Physics. She received her Bachelors degree in astrophysics from Caltech and a PhD degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Harvard, followed by a Junior Fellowship at Harvard. She joined Georgia Tech in 2018. Her research group is focused on the formation and habitability of exoplanets.

 

Glenn Lightsey

Aerospace engineering

Glenn Lightsey is the David Lewis Professor of Space Systems Technology in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering. He earned a Bachelors in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton, a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University. He was joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 2014; previously, he was on the faculty at University of Texas Austin. His research focuses on the technology of small satellites. He is an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Fellow, Associate Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Small Satellites, director of the Space Systems Design Lab, and director of the Center for Space Technology And Research (CSTAR).

Thomas Orlando

Chemistry & BIochemistry

Thomas Orlando is a Professor in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry. He earned a Bachelors in Chemistry from Southampton College and a PhD in Chemistry from SUNY Stony Brook. He directs the Electron- and Photon-Induced Chemistry on Surfaces Lab (EPICS) and the  global multidisciplinary team REVEALS (Radiation Effects on Volatiles and Exploration of Asteroids and Lunar Surfaces). His group seeks to understand the important role electronic excitations of surfaces and interfaces play in chemical transformations, which can occur in radiation environments within the interstellar media, plasmas, or planetary magnetospheres.

Frank Rosenzweig

Biological Sciences

Frank Rosenzweig is a Professor in School of Biological Sciences. He holds Bachelors degrees in Comparative Literature and Zoology from University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and a PhD in Biology at University of Pennsylvania. He carried out postdoctoral studies at the University of Michigan. He was a professor at University of Idaho, University of Florida, and University of Montana before joining the Georgia Tech faculty in 2016. He served as the Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute funded center “Reliving the Past” from 2015 to 2019.  His research group studies the ecological and evolutionary forces that produce and preserve genetic variation using experimental evolution  to illuminate how genetic variation maps onto organismal fitness.

Britney Schmidt

Earth & ATmospheric Sciences

Britney Schmidt is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She earned a Bachelors degree in Physics from the University of Arizona and a PhD in Geophysics and Space Physics from University of California Los Angeles. Her Planetary Habitability and Technology Lab studies planetary ices and habitability of icy worlds. She is the PI of Icefin robot, RISE-UP (Ross Ice Shelf and Europa Underwater Probe project; NASA PSTAR), and the NASA center Oceans Across Space & Time (OAST). Her group performs comprehensive studies of geophysics and biology beneath the Antarctic ice shelf using integrated imaging, ice penetrating radar, and subsurface exploration by marine vehicles.

Ask-An-Astrobiologist: Britney Schmidt

William Ratcliff

Biological Sciences

William Ratcliff is an Associate Professor in the School of Biological Sciences. He earned a Bachelors degrees in plant biology from University of California Davis, and a PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from University of Minnesota. He joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 2014. His group has developed new experimental methods to study how among-organism genetic conflict arises and can be mitigated. His group studies the origin of complex life, namely, how new organisms arise and evolve to be more complex without succumbing to conflict.

Christopher Reinhard

EArth & Atmospheric Sciences

Christopher Reinhard is an Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He holds bachelors degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology from University Kansas, and MS and PhD degrees in Earth Sciences from University of California Riverside, followed by an O.K. Earl Postdoctoral Fellowship at Caltech. He joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 2014. His group strives to understand the fundamentals of Earth system change on the longest timescales, and by the simple observation that the evolutionary history of the Earth system provides a unique ‘sample set’ of inhabited worlds. He served as Co-PI of the NASA Astrobiology Institute funded “Alternative Earths” team from 2015-2019.

Amanda Stockton

chemistry & Biochemistry

Amanda Stockton is an Assistant Professor in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry. She earned a Bachelors degrees in Chemistry and Aerospace Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Masters in Chemistry from Brown, and a PhD in Chemistry from University of California Berkeley. Prior to joining the Georgia Tech faculty in 2015, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her research group develops instruments for in situ organic analysis in search for extraterrestrial life. She is the PI of FELDSPAR, Field Exploration and Life Detection Sampling for Planetary and Astrobiology Research, which explores Icelandic lava flows as Mars analogs.

Ask-An-Astrobiologist: Amanda Stockton

Loren Williams

chemistry & Biochemistry

Loren Williams is a Professor in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry. He received his Bachelors degree in Chemistry from the University of Washington, and a PhD in Physical Chemistry from Duke University, followed by ACS and NIH postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and MIT. He joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 1992. He was Director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute funded RiboEvo Center from 2008 to 2015. Loren is currently a Co-Lead of the Prebiotic Chemistry and Early Earth Environment Consortium (PCE3, a NASA Research Coordination Network) and is Director of the NASA-funded Center for the Origin of Life (COOL). His group works to understand the origins of the ribosome and the translation system as a proxy for biological complexity, the basis of the universal tree of life, and a molecular repository of deep biochemical history.

James Wray

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

James Wray is an Associate Professor in the School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences. He earned a Bachelors degrees in Astrophysical Sciences from Princeton and a PhD in Astronomy from Cornell. He joined the Georgia Tech faculty in 2011. His research uses spacecraft observations of solar system planetary bodies to probe their surface processes and compositions, with the ultimate goal of understanding how planetary environments have evolved over time, and whether/when/where they have been habitable. The inventory of water on Mars today and in the past, and that water’s chemistry and physical properties, are of particular interest. His group also uses laboratory and field-based measurements, e.g. reflectance spectroscopy, of planetary analog materials for comparison to spacecraft data.

Lisa Yaszek

Literature, media & Communication

Lisa Yaszek is Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, where she explores science fiction as a global language crossing centuries, continents, and cultures. She earned a Bachelors in English from University of Michigan, and Masters and PhD degrees in English from University of Wisconsin. Her books include Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction (Ohio State, 2008), Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction (Wesleyan 2016), and The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women (Library of America, 2018). A past president of the Science Fiction Research Association, Yaszek currently serves as a juror for the John W. Campbell and Eugie Foster Science Fiction Awards.

Astrobiology Research Scientists

Jessica Bowman

Chemistry & biochemistry

Jessica Bowman is the Scientific Director of the Center for the Origin of Life (COOL) at Georgia Tech. She studies the ubiquities of RNA and protein biochemistries, especially the roles of inorganic cations, water and other physicochemical factors in polymer synthesis, folding, function, mutualism, and persistence.

Matthew Herron

Biological Sciences

Matthew Herron is a senior research scientist who studies the evolutionary origins of multicellularity. He integrates experimental, theoretical, and comparative approaches using algae as model systems. He was a NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Montana prior to becoming a research scientist at Georgia Tech.

Anton Petrov

Biological Sciences

Anton Petrov is Co-I on the Center for the Origin of Life (COOL) at Georgia Tech. He integrates computational structural and evolutionary biology to characterize the oldest traceable macromolecules and machines of life, and the earliest discernible connection of the chemical RNA-based world to the biological RNA-DNA-protein world.

Eric Smith

Biological Sciences

Eric Smith studies the origin of life from the perspectives of biochemistry, microbiology, geochemistry, and statistical physics. Smith is a Principal Investigator at the Earth-Life Science Institute at Tokyo Institute of Technology and a member of Frank Rosenzweig’s NASA Astrobiology Institute node on major evolutionary transitions in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech.

Astrobiology Postdocs

Devon Cole

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

Modeling chemical evolution of Earth’s ocean-atmosphere system through time, and the relationship between environmental change and the biosphere

Peter Conlin

Biological Sciences

NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow, “Fitness Decoupling in Transition to Multicellularity”

Moran Frenkel-Pinter

Chemistry & Biochemistry

NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow, “Prebiotic Assembly of Proto-Peptides”

Kynan Hughson

EARTH & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES

Geologic mapping and investigations of potential periglacial landforms in the solar system

Andrew Mullen

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow, “Holographic Microscopy for Icy Worlds”

Anna Simpson

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

NASA Astrobiology Institute Early Career Collaboration Award: Astrobiology and landscape ecology of FELDSPAR’s Iceland volcanic analog sites

Micah Schaible

Chemistry & Biochemistry

NASA SSERVI Postdoctoral Fellow, “Chemical Effects Caused by Electrostatically Charged Regolith Dust Grains on the Lung Surfactant DPPC”

Nadia Szeinbaum

Earth & Atmospheric Sciences

NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow, “Microbial Interactions Leading to the Great Oxidation Event”

Astrobiology Graduate Students

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Reilly Brennan

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Planetary Science, Impact Events, Surface Chemistry

Advisor: Orlando

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Recipient, 2020

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Planetary Formation

Christina Buffo

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Astrochemistry, space ice

Advisor: Orlando

Chase Chivers

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

Geophysical processes of planetary ices and their interactions with water

Advisor: Schmidt

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Icy Worlds

Maria Granada

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

Astrobiology, Evolution, Medicine, & Microbiology

Advisor: Rosenzweig

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Panspermia

Rebecca Guth-Metzler

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Understanding ancient metal-biomolecule relationships through investigation of the translation system

Advisors: Glass & Williams

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Origins of Life

Katie Koube

Materials Science and Engineering

Shock physics, meteoritics, materials in extreme environments, in-situ resource utilization

Advisors: Thadhani & Kacher

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Moon Formation

Justin Lawrence

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

Robotic exploration below Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf  as an analog for processes, and potentially ecosystems, on  ocean worlds like Europa or Enceladus

Advisor: Schmidt

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Icy Worlds

Zijian Li

EARTH & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES

Biogeochemistry and paleoclimate, ocean redox evolution on Earth

Advisor: Reinhard

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Manganese Oxides

Charles Ross Lindsey

BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES

Astrobiology, molecular evolution, and phylogenetics

Advisor: Rosenzweig

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Eukaryogenesis and Mitochondria

Petar Penev

bioinformatics

Evolutionary pathways of ribosomal RNA and ribosomal proteins

Advisor: Williams

 

Taylor Plattner

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

Analog fieldwork, geobiology, remote sensing

Advisor: Schmidt

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Organics at Hydrothermal Vents

Chinmayee Govinda Raj

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Bioengineering, instrumentation, device engineering

Advisor: Stockton

 

Tyler Roche

CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Origins of life, prebiotic chemistry, proto-nucleic acid evolution

Advisor: Hud

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Origins of Life

Alex Sessa

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

Planetary spectroscopy to investigate Martian surface mineralogy as well as that of terrestrial analogs

Advisor: Wray

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Recipient, 2020

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Technosignatures

Elizabeth Spiers

Earth & atmospheric Sciences

Ocean worlds,  habitability, ocean-silicate boundary within Europa’s interior

Advisors: Schmidt

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Europa

George Tan

CHEMISTRY & Biochemistry

Mars terrestrial analog sites to help guide NASA’s future life-detection missions on Mars utilizing analytical chemical/biological techniques and machine learning

Advisor: Stockton

Pengxiao Xu

EARTH & ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCES

Chromium isotopes as a proxy of oxygenation of Earth’s history, and biogeochemical modeling of ocean worlds

Advisor: Reinhard

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Candidate

Hypothesis Browser Sci Comm Project: Gaseous Biosignatures

Astrobiology Alumni

Marcus Bray

2019, PhD, Biological Sciences, Georgia Tech Advisors: Glass & Williams

Jacob Buffo

2019, PhD, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Tech

Advisor: Schmidt

Betul Kacar

NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow, 2012-2015, Georgia Tech

Tim Lenz

2015, PhD, Biochemistry, Georgia Tech   

Advisors: Williams & Hud

Kennda Lynch

Biological Scienes

Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, 2015-2019, Georgia Tech

Denise Okafor

2015, PhD, Biochemistry, Georgia Tech

Advisors: Williams & Hud

Nicholas Speller

NASA Astrobiology Postdoctoral Fellow, 2016-2019, Georgia Tech 

Dragos George Zaharescu

Postdoctoral Scholar, 2017-2019, Georgia Tech

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