«« Return to Profile Search Page
Matt SchrenkAstrobiology IGERT
University of WashingtonSeattle, WA
One of the most fascinating aspects about Astrobiology to me is that it pushes the frontiers of science, both in a physical and an intellectual sense. The problems that Astrobiology openly confronts - the origins of life, the 'essence' of life, the possibilities of extraterrestrial life - are some of the most fundamental and daunting in science. In order to address these problems, scientists must rely upon creative new means to develop and test their hypotheses. Furthermore, because Astrobiology is a cross-disciplinary science, it encourages a holistic approach to understanding complex biological, geological, and astrophysical processes. All of this leads to an extremely exciting atmosphere in which to conduct science.
My contributions to Astrobiology research at UW have primarily been directed at exploring the ability of abiotic geochemical processes to support microbial life. I have done much of this research at deep-sea hydrothermal vents, some of the most primordial environments existing on present-day Earth. I study ridge-axis hydrothermal systems such as the Juan de Fuca Ridge about 300 miles off the coast of Washington State and the Lost City Hydrothermal Field near the Mid Atlantic Ridge.
Some of the exciting projects I have been able to participate in since arriving at UW include 1) Recovery of large pieces of hydrothermal vent chimneys (the largest such structures ever recovered from the seafloor); 2) Development of a high-pressure, high-temperature facility for incubating organisms under deep-sea conditions; and 3) Instrumenting black smoker chimneys for in situ thermal, chemical, and microbiological measurements. This research has allowed us to test criteria for life-detection, explore the upper temperature limits for life, and determine reliable biosignatures, all of which may be relevant to the search for extraterrestrial life.
Click here to edit your profile