News Story

Dr. Sarah Johnson and postdoc Maëva Millan make stunning findings in the hunt for life on Mars

This November, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Maëva Millan and Dr. Sarah Stewart Johnson published a new paper in Nature Astronomy entitled “Organic molecules revealed in Mars’s Bagnold Dunes by Curiosity’s derivatization experiment.” The paper, which serves as the culmination of four years of Millan’s work, describes the findings of the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, a tool found on NASA’s Curiosity Rover. SAM was designed to analyze Martian soil for the presence of amino acids and carboxylic acids using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS). Here, Dr. Millan and Dr. Johnson investigate the spectra and compounds identified after extracting organic molecules from the soil using “wet chemistry, ” a combination of chemical liquids and gas. Their research, as well as the story of Millan’s journey from the LATMOS laboratory in France to Georgetown, is eloquently described in a recent article posted by the College. We are so grateful for Maëva’s contributions to our department and her field!

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