1 PhD position on Atmospheric transport of aerosols and bioburden, on Earth and Mars

Application deadline:

Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA) offers a PhD position associated with Mars exploration through the "Aid for predoc contracts for the training of doctors" (Ministry of Science and Innovation).

Project description:

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the atmospheric dispersion of mineral aerosols, and potential organic compounds and bioburden through the atmosphere of Mars, and as an analogue in the atmosphere and on the surface of the Earth. This thesis will provide critical information to space agencies and COSPAR on the risks for Planetary Protection of bioburden dispersion from ditching sites of exploration missions and possible pollution that compromises the search for life on Mars.

The starting hypothesis of this thesis is to assume that we can use atmospheric observations of the Earth and Mars, and our current understanding of global and local circulation in both planetary environments, to provide an assessment of the airborne dispersion of terrestrial bioburden from the Mars landing site to the rest of the planet. To do this, we will use simulations in environmental chambers in space to mimic some conditions that molecules and cells on Earth will experience on Mars, and we will investigate on Earth, during Mars analogous campaigns, the survival mechanisms of microorganisms that are transported through Earth. Moreover, since certain abiotic reactions can induce the abiotic production or destruction of organics and compromise the detection of bio-markers on Mars, we will investigate the protective role of aerosols on microorganisms, and their potential to serve as catalysts for chemical reactions on their surface while they are suspended in the atmosphere.

This thesis requires a multidisciplinary approach that can only be efficiently implemented by merging different areas (such as remote and in-situ detection, Earth and Mars observation, atmospheric circulation, space exploration and hardware assembly on Earth, microbiology, extremophiles, photochemistry, mineral catalysis, chemistry, etc).

Expected results: 3 publications in Q1 journals

Group: Planetary Geology and Athmospheres (https://cab.inta-csic.es/es/lineasdeinvestigacion/10/grupo-de-geologia-…)

For more information contact researcher: María Paz Zorzano (zorzanomm@cab.inta-csic.es)

*Due to the migration of our webpage to a new one, we are unable to announce this offer directly in our page at the moment.