ASB Committee

The ASB Committee is responsible for running the Astrobiology Society of Britain. Its members are:


dr-manish-patel-mars-mission-scientistChair [2016 – Present]Manish Patel, The Open University

Manish Patel is a Senior Lecturer in Planetary Sciences at the Open University, and holds a Joint Appointment at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.  His primary interests are the investigation of planetary environments using space instrumentation, and radiative transfer modelling of Mars’ atmosphere.  He began his career working on the Beagle 2 Environmental Sensor Suite as part of his PhD, followed by the Cassini-Huygens mission to Titan. He is currently the Co-PI of the NOMAD instrument on-board the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter which will investigate the abundance and variability of trace gases (such as methane) and aerosols in the martian atmosphere.

Chair [2010 – 2016]: Terry Kee, University of Leedsnovember-photos-phone-114

Terry is a chemist, former UK Space Agency Aurora Fellow (2009-12) and former ASB Chair, based in the University of Leeds. Terry has broad interests in astrobiology but most of his work concerns the origins of life, abiogenesis. One of the fundamental questions that he is looking to address is “how could life have emerged from putative prebiotic geological environments”? The approach that he and his collaborators take is to focused on two core principles; (i) energy transduction and (ii) cooperative molecular interactions and use a range of experimental and theoretical techniques to probe this. Terry is also formulating a new approach as to how to view life, in both scientific and philosophical contexts.

Secretary: Lewis Dartnell, University of Westminster


Lewis is a research scientist based at the University of Westminster, and former UK Space Agency Aurora Fellow. His astrobiology research is studying how life, and signs of its existence known as biosignatures, might survive the cosmic radiation on the surface of Mars. He does this with a combination of computer modelling, working with biosignature detection instrumentation, and experimental irradiations. He also holds an STFC Science in Society Fellowship and alongside his astrobiology research engages in a lot of public outreach and science communication. He has published a popular science book introducing astrobiology, “Life in the Universe: A Beginner’s Guide”.

Membership Secretary: Euan Monaghan, Leiden University

Euan Monaghan is a postdoc at Leiden University in the Netherlands, where he is working as part of the EC FP7 project Mars Analogues for Space Exploration (MASE).

Treasurer: Louisa Preston, Birkbeck University of London

Dr. Louisa Preston is a UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow in Astrobiology at Birkbeck University of London. She has worked on projects for NASA and the Canadian, European and UK Space Agencies studying environments across the Earth, where life is able to survive our planet’s most extreme conditions, using them as blueprints for possible extra-terrestrial life forms and habitats.  She is an avid science communicator having spoken about the search for life on Mars at the TED Conference in 2013, and her first book Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for Life in the Universe is out now by Bloomsbury Sigma. Follow her on Twitter @LouisaJPreston and her personal webpage:

Ex-officio Committee members:

Ian Crawford, Birkbeck University of London


Ian Crawford is currently Professor of Planetary Science and Astrobiology at Birkbeck College, University of London. His research interests include the Moon, Mars, space exploration, and the search for life in the universe. Full details are available at:

Jonathan Horner, University of Southern Queensland

Jonti is the Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research pic1Fellow at the University of Southern Queensland. He first became interested in astronomy at the age of five, having caught the end of an episode of a Sky at Night, and has been a passionate amateur astronomer ever since. Jonti obtained his DPhil. from the University of Oxford in 2004 for research studying ‘The Behaviour of Small Bodies in the Outer Solar System”. Since then, his research has broadened, covering topics from the formation and evolution of our Solar system to the various astronomical drivers that might affect the habitability of exoplanets. He is also actively involved in the search for planets around other stars, and is currently helping to lead the construction of the MINERVA-Australis observatory at USQ, with the goal of finding Earth-like planets around some of the Sun’s nearest neighbours. Jonti is a regular contributor the TheConversation, and regularly discuss recent research in astronomy and astrobiology on local and national radio in Australia, as well as on Twitter.

Zita Martins, Imperial College University of London

zita-martins_01Zita is a Royal Society University Research Fellow. She has an MSc in Chemistry from Instituto Superior Técnico (Portugal, 2002) and a PhD in Astrobiology from Leiden University (The Netherlands, 2007). She was an Invited Scientist at NASA Goddard (2005 and 2006), and an Invited Professor at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France) (2012). Zita moved to Imperial College London as Post-Doc Research Associate in 2007, and in 2009 she was awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship worth £1 Million. Zita is a Co-Investigator in two future ESA-ELIPS space missions. She is a Member of two ESA Topical Teams, a Member of the Phobos Sample Return Science Study Team, and a Member of the UK Space Agency’s Space Environments Working Group (SEWG). Zita also has an active involvement with public outreach activities, including international media interviews and public talks (website and Twitter). She had the honour of having her portrait sketched (special commission) for the Royal Society exhibit about successful women in science. She was also selected as a BBC Expert Women Scientist. In 2015 Zita was appointed Oficial da Ordem Militar de Sant’Iago da Espada (OSE) by the President of Portugal for exceptional and outstanding merits in science. This is the Portuguese equivalent of an OBE.

Jack O’Malley-James, Cornell Universityjack

Originally from the Astronomy Group at the University of St Andrews, Jack is now a member of The Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. He works on the borders between astronomy and biology,  focusing on how life could live under conditions that are different to those we find on Earth today and, more importantly, how we might be able to detect these weird forms of life. This includes investigating what life might be like on a hot, dry, far-future version of the Earth, as well as what strange forms of life could flourish under the alien conditions around red dwarf stars.

Karen Olsson-Francis, The Open University



Karen is currently a lecturer at the Open University and a UK Space Agency Aurora Fellow. Her research focuses on understanding how microorganisms can live in extreme environments and their role in biogeochemical cycling. As part of her research, she is involved with the EXPOSE program, which investigates the effect of low Earth orbit on microbial survival and bio-signatures on-board the International Space Station.


Adam Stevens, University of Edinburghheadshot2016

Adam is an STFC-funded post-doc at the University of Edinburgh. His research involves looking at habitability at small scales by simulating extra-terrestrial conditions in the lab, generally looking at Mars. He has interest in the search for biosignatures from small scales, like DNA, to larger ones, looking at planetary atmospheres for biogenic gases like methane. He is involved in several programmes of fieldwork that look at biosignature detection in Mars-analogue environments like Iceland or Hawaii, including some in collaboration with NASA.

Jennifer Wadsworth, University of Edinburgh


Jennifer is a PhD candidate at the UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh. Her main focus is studying the effects of ionising radiation on environments and microbes and how the resulting photochemistry can effect the habitability of high-radiation environments (such as the early Earth or Mars). She currently has experiments on the outside of the International Space Station as a part of ESA’s EXPOSE-R2 project, where an array of biological samples are exposed to space conditions. Her party trick is the ability to speak Swiss-German dialect and eat copious amounts of fondue.

Nick Lane, University College London



The ASB Committee Constitution (updated October 2015) can downloaded in pdf. format.