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Ancient water and life on Mars

Background: The question of whether life can or could exist on Mars is of significant interest in astrobiology due to its proximity and numerous similarities to Earth. A body of evidence has been built up in recent years showing that in the past, the surface environment of Mars had liquid water and may therefore have been habitable for microorganisms. Most current studies focus on the detection of biologically important compounds in planetary atmospheres through spectroscopic techniques. In order to confirm detection of biological markers on other planets however, one must first investigate their VUV absorption properties in a controlled laboratory environment here on Earth.

Project description: This Masters project is part of ongoing research on finding life on other planets. A new customized, VUV spectrometer system has been purchased for the planetary simulation laboratory experiment at Freie Universitaet. The student will be responsible for the characterization, absolute calibration and optimization of this system in order to take high resolution measurements to advance the project as a whole. The student will also take spectroscopic measurements of biological compounds under simulated Martian conditions.

Requirements:

  • Interest in cross-field research at the interface between physics and biology
  • Knowledge of spectroscopic techniques; previous laboratory experience is desirable
  • A good mix of curiosity, enthusiasm and hard-working attitude
  • Good proficiency in spoken and written English

 

Start: November 2020 (negotiable)