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Research Fellows Directory

Zita Martins

Dr Zita Martins

Research Fellow

Organisation

Imperial College London

Research summary

My research interests include three topics:

1. The role of extraterrestrial material received on Earth for the origin of life.

I analyze organic molecules present in meteorites, in order to understand the events that happened in our early solar system and also into the resources available for the early life forms on Earth. I also study the shock-synthesis of complex organic molecules via the impact of comets and asteroids, including the impact of meteorites onto icy surfaces and the impact of comets onto rocky surfaces. Finally, I study the effect of aqueous alteration on the meteorite parent body for the L-enantiomer excess observed for some amino acids in carbonaceous meteorites.

2. Definition of possible hallmarks for life detection on other planets/moons.

I study the detection of possible signatures of life in other places of the solar system, such as Mars. I do this by performing interdisciplinary analysis on several desert samples identified as an analog environment for Mars. The interdisciplinary study includes field work followed by microbiology, mineralogy, sulfur isotopes, carbon, nitrogen and sulfur (CNS) composition, and amino acid analysis in the laboratory.

3. Prebiotic chemistry in the geochemical and astrochemical framework

I study the role mineral surfaces play in the photochemical stability and preservation of organic molecules and building blocks of life in comets, meteorites and planetary surfaces. I do this by exposing samples to real space environments at the International Space Station (ISS). I am a Co-I in the ORganics Exposure in Orbit (OREOcube) experiment, a European Space Agency-Life & Physical Sciences in Space (ESA-ELIPS) mission scheduled for launch to the ISS in 2015 and later returned to Earth for analyses.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Organic signatures of life and prebiotic chemistry in our Solar System

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2014 - Sep 2017

Value: £309,528.34

Organic signatures of life and prebiotic chemistry in our Solar System

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2009 - Sep 2014

Value: £529,765.04