CPSH Seminar Series: Laura Rodriguez, Lunar and Planetary Institute


April 22, 2024 at 1:00pm CT

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Laura Rodriguez Profile Pic Marsrover

Speaker: Laura Rodriguez, Staff Scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute

Host: Brandon Jones

Title: Hunting for Organics on Planetary Bodies

Abstract: An understanding of how planetary environments drive the chemical evolution of organic matter is critical for deducing the potential for a planetary body to have hosted an origin of life event and thus evidence of extant or extinct life. However, abiotic organic chemistry is complex and can be difficult to characterize even with samples on Earth, much less via rovers or spacecraft visiting other worlds. In this talk, I will discuss strategies to facilitate the characterization of organic compounds using high resolution mass spectrometry and laser induced breakdown spectroscopy. The potential for these strategies to be leveraged for the field of prebiotic chemistry, the analysis of returned samples, and planetary exploration on Mars and ocean worlds will be discussed.

Biography: Laura Rodriguez is an organic geochemist from the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, TX. Her research is centered on understanding how planetary environments can drive the formation of genetic precursors on prebiotic worlds; she is also interested in developing strategies to help elucidate the organic content in spectra acquired by planetary missions, astromaterials, and prebiotic analogs where the abiotic chemistry can get very complex. Dr. Rodriguez is an MSL Participating Scientist and a member of the MSR Campaign Science Group. She received her B.Sc. in Geochemistry (Rice University, 2013), a dual-title Ph.D. in Geosciences and Astrobiology (Penn State, 2019), and completed a postdoc at NASA JPL in the Origins & Habitability Laboratory.