Participants

Lynn Justine Rothschild, a pioneer in the field of astrobiology, is a senior scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center. She was formerly chief scientist for synthetic biology at NASA Ames, and she is currently an adjunct professor at Brown University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment both on Earth and potentially beyond our planet’s boundaries. Since 2007, she has studied the effect of UV radiation on DNA synthesis, carbon metabolism, and mutation/DNA repair in the Rift Valley of Kenya and the Atacama Desert of Bolivia as well as in high altitude experiments atop Mount Everest. For the past four years, she has been the faculty advisor of the award-winning Stanford-Brown iGEM (Internationally Genetically Engineered Machine) team, which has pioneered the use of synthetic biology to accomplish NASA’s mission, particularly focusing on the human settlement of Mars, astrobiology, and such innovative technologies as BioWires and making a biodegradable UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). Her lab is working on expanding synthetic biology’s use with projects as diverse as recreating the first proteins de novo, to bioprinting, to biomining, to using synthetic biology to precipitate calcite and produce glues in order to make bricks on Mars or the moon. She and her colleagues will begin to move these plans into space in the form of a synthetic biology secondary payload on a DLR (German Aerospace Center) satellite, EuCROPIS, scheduled to launch in March 2017. A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Rothschild earned a master’s degree in zoology from Indiana University and a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Brown University in 1985. She remained at Brown for post-doctoral research on the molecular evolution of ribosomal DNA in yeast, and on a post-doctoral fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Center, she undertook the measurements of carbon fixation rates at NASA Ames, then joined its research center staff in 1988. Dr. Rothschild has twice won NASA Ames’s Jack N. Nielson Award for her research proposals and is the recipient of a NASA Group Achievement Award for her work in astrobiology as well as a NASA Outstanding Achievement Award. In 2012, she was presented with the inaugural CEO Award by Gen9, a leading gene synthesis company. The American Humanist Association presented her with the Isaac Asimov Award in May, and later this month she will receive the Horace Mann Award from Brown. A former Hotchkiss School Auger Fellow, she is an elected fellow of the Linnean Society of London, The Explorer’s Club, and the California Academy of Sciences and a corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics. She has been a member of the executive committee and secretary of the International Society of Evolutionary Protistology and president of the Society of Protozoologists, and she is currently an advisor to the Brazilian Exobiology Program. Founding co-editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Astrobiology, she was formerly on the editorial board of Origins of Life and Evolution in the Biosphere and on the board of reviewers of the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology. Dr. Rothschild is the author of more than fifty papers published in scientific journals and volumes of collected works and co-editor (with Adrian Lister) of Evolution on Planet Earth: The Impact of the Physical Environment, which was published in 2003 by Academic Press.