ASB Committee

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

Chair (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 Leeds


november-photos-phone-114Terry 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.


 Lewis Dartnell, University of Westminster


Llewis_dartnell-california-freddie_claireewis 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”.


Adam Stevens, University of Edinburgh


headshot2016Adam 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.



Louisa Preston, Natural History Museum


Dr. Louisa Preston is a UK Space Agency Aurora Research Fellow in Astrobiology based at The Natural History Museum, 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:

ianIan 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


pic1 Jonti is the Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow 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, Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal


zita-martins_01 Zita is an Associate Professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal. 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.

jackJack O’Malley-James, Carl Sagan Institute, Cornell University


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.

olsson-francis-xmasKaren 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.


jen-asb-picJennifer 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


Dr Nick Lane is an evolutionary biochemist in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at UCL. His research is on how energy shapes evolution, from the origin of life to the evolution of complex cells. He is is Co-Director of CLOE, the new UCL Centre for Life’s Origins and Evolution. He has published some 70 research papers including articles in Nature, Science and Cell, and four celebrated books, translated into 25 languages. Life Ascending won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books in 2010, while Bill Gates praised The Vital Question as “an amazing inquiry into the origins of life”. Nick’s work was recognized by the 2015 Biochemical Society Award for his outstanding contribution to the molecular biosciences and the 2016 Royal Society Faraday Prize, the UK’s premier award for excellence in communicating science.

David Summers,  Thales Alenia Space in the UK


David Summers is the Industry Representative on the ASB Committee. David works for Thales Alenia Space in the UK. After spending ten years in academia (Particle Physics Phenomenology), David moved into industry – where he has been for the last 15 years – and started work on space projects. Inside the space industry, David’s role is quite unusual – with his training in science, he is the person to go to for new technologies in early stages of development. With a background in maths, he is often called on for his knowledge, particularly in statistics, and also interpretation of data. This latter work brought involvement with astrobiology, on ESA’s study on sterilisation limits for sample return planetary protection measures; there David takes measurements of sterilization in hypervelocity and radiation tests on organisms, and uses this to predict levels of possible life on Martian moons.

Rachel Luke,  UK Space Agency


Rachel is the UK Space Agency representative on the ASB Committee. With a background in radiotherapy in the NHS the space world is new to her, but as Robotic Exploration Programme Manager she is swiftly learning all there is to know about Mars, getting there, and what we can do out there.



David Slade,  The Open University


David Slade is a 2nd year PhD student studying planetary sciences at The Open University. He is part of the astrobiology research group as well as the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) NOMAD UVIS science team. His research focuses on utilising anaerobic microbiology techniques, as well as unique high-pressure systems, to study methane-producing microbes to help interpret volatile organic chemistry data retrieved from the ExoMars TGO NOMAD instrument data.


Andrew Dickinson,  University  of  Edinburgh


Andrew Dickinson is a 3rd year PhD student at The UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on exploring the limits of microbial life under a combination of multiple extreme conditions with the hope of furthering our understanding of the boundaries of habitability space on Earth. His current experimental work examines the effect of multiple physicochemical parameters on the growth of a moderately halophilic isolate from deep-sea, low-temperature hydro-thermal fluid.

Liam  Perera,  University  of  Edinburgh



Liam is a PhD student at the UK Centre for Astrobiology, University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on icy environments and habitability of the icy moons, Enceladus and Europa. In particular he looks at how geochemical and physical processes affect how geochemical and biological material may be transported and trapped within icy environments.


Marina Barcenilla, University of Westminster


Marina Barcenilla is an Astrobiology PhD student based at the University of Westminster. Her research is currently focused on the detection of spectroscopic biosignatures on Mars, but she also has an interest in the habitability of Europa and other icy satellites. She is a keen science communicator and started her own public engagement project, AromAtom, in 2017.


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