PhD position: Primitive life on Earth and Mars and the signature of organic prebiotic molecules

Posted on Jan 28, 2015 in News, PhD positions | 3 comments

PhD position: Primitive life on Earth and Mars and the signature of organic prebiotic molecules

We have received the following notice from Dr. Frances Westall at Centre de biophysique Moléculaire, Orléans, France.

Exobiology: Primitive life on Earth and Mars and the signature of organic prebiotic molecules


Organic chemistry/Prebiotic chemistry/Geo-organochemistry
36 month contract (PhD) from the Région Centre, starting in Septembre 2015


The Exobiology group of the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, CNRS, UPR 4301 in Orléans (France) is proposing a doctoral bursary financed by the Région Centre in organic chemistry/prebiotic chemistry/geo-organochemistry.


The PhD thesis is oriented towards the search for traces of life on Mars in the context of on-going and future missions to the red planet : Mars Science Laboratory (NASA), and ExoMars 2018 (Europe/Russia) and Mars 2020 (NASA), the latter the first step in the return of rocks from Mars. Mars apparently had conditions conducive to the appearance of life but, before life could appear, chemical processes must have passed through a prebiotic phase of increasing complexification. It is therefore necessary to be able to identify the signatures of prebiotic molecules and protocellular structures (micelles, vesicles) that could be preserved in ancient martian rocks so that we can distinguish them from the fossil traces of primitive microorganisms.


This multidisciplinary project concerns the fossilisation of prebiotic molecules within a mineral matrix and characterising their signatures with the same techniques used to study very ancient fossil microorganisms. Their signatures will then be compared with those of ancient, primitive terrestrial microorganisms, such a chemotrophs, to determine their distinguishing features.


Potential candidates need to have the equivalent of a Master-2 degree in organic chemistry or a related discipline. He/she should be strongly interested by the origines of life, organic chemistry and astrobiology.


The thesis will be co-directed by Dr. Frances Westall (CBM) and Prof. Christian Mustin (LIEC laboratory in Nancy).


Candidates are invited to contact Dr. Frances WESTALL, Director of Research CNRS, head of the Exobiology group at the CBM (


The Doctoral School requires that the selected candidate present his/her thesis project in front of a jury at the end of June 2015 (more precise information will be provided in time).


The chosen doctoral condidate will be have the opportunity of doing complementary teaching in chemistry, depending on acceptance by the Doctoral School.


Further information on the Exobiology group can be found here:


  1. i would like study phd chimstry

    • that is very good

  2. I would like study phd chemistry in organic
    thank you very much

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