Print button

AbGradE Committee

AbGradE was conceptualized over a few drinks and food at the conference dinner of the 13th EANA meeting in July 2013, in Szczecin, Poland. The AbGradE committee organizes annual events before the EANA conference, and has a representative on the EANA council.

President and representative on the EANA-council:
Ruth-Sophie Taubner, Austria, ruth-sophie.taubner (at)

Vice Presidents:
Mickael Baqué, Germany, mickael.baque (at)
Philippe Nauny, UK, p.nauny.1 (at)

Marta Filipa Cortesão, Germany, marta.cortesao (at)

Petra Schwendner, Florida, petra.schwendner (at)

Athanasios Papadopoulos, Germany, Athanasios.Papadopoulos (at)
Alex Price, UK, alex.price (at)

The list of current members is (sorted by last name):
Mickael Baqué
I obtained my PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Rome "Tor Vergata" focusing on the desert cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis as a model organism in two space experiments BOSS and BIOMEX. And I am now pursuing my involvement in BIOMEX at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin to answer astrobiological questions related to the limits of life on Earth and its possibility elsewhere in the Solar System, especially Mars (e.g. by assessing biosignatures degradation in space and Martian simulated environments).
Marta Filipa Cortesão
I did my Masters in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Porto, and had the pleasure to do my master thesis on UV-resistance genes at the Centre for Astrobiology (CAB) in Madrid. I am now a PhD student at Space Microbiology research group at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Cologne, working on the adaptation of Fungi to space conditions and their biotechnological potential for space applications. Besides Astrobiology, I love travelling, and I am passionate about education and science outreach!
Niloofar Feshangsaz
I received my Master´s degree in biophysics with a focus on extreme halophiles under simulated space conditions and currently PhD student at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. I am working in systems bioinformatics lab. My research focus is on the fundamental understanding of composition, structure, function, dynamics and metabolisms of psychrophilic consortium.
Bjarke Haldrup
I recently began working on my Master’s Thesis in Molecular and Medical Biology at Roskilde University in Denmark – in collaboration with Kai Finster at Aarhus University. My Thesis focuses on the Phylum Tardigrada (Tardigrades/Water Bears) and their resistance to simulated Mars-conditions, specifically the effect on the metabolism of the tardigrades – in hopes of identifying novel protective mechanisms that are effective against Martian conditions such as UV-radiation, freeze-thaw cycles and oxidative stress. Hope to see you at the next AbGradE event!
Djordje Markovic
I graduated from the University of Belgrade, where I got my Masters degree in Biophysics with focus on bioinformatics. Afterwards, I decided to pursue my place in the astrobiological community and enrolled Masters studies in Astronomy, with a thesis addressing the probability of lithopanspermia on habitable exoplanets. Still, I consider myself a biologist and am currently looking for a suitable PhD position. My interests are biospeleology, deep subsurface environments and handcrafted jewelry.
Philippe Nauny
I obtained a joint master in chemistry and biology from the Université Louis Pasteur (Strasbourg, France), working on the directed evolution of ribosymes. Now a PhD student at the University of Glasgow, I study environmental analogues for Mars on Earth.
My main research project consists in the study of environments experiencing high-solar flux and liquid-water-unstable conditions in Chile along 3 axes: (i) the physio-chemistry and mineralogy of the soil, (ii) the repartition of various organic biomarkers, and (iii) the genetic study of microbial communities and other DNA remains. A secondary project in Iceland consists in studying the contamination of samples during field work, and the natural seeding of biomarkers and life in barren sites. Also, and not part of my PhD project, I study meteorites in my free time.
Tareq Omairi
I obtained my PhD in Molecular Biology from the University of Sheffield - UK. My research interests involve investigating microbes within the Earth`s stratosphere, using samplers loaded on stratospheric balloons for sample retrieval from an altitude of 20-40km. I also look into the possibility of using light generated by fluorescent minerals as an energy source for Cyanobacteria, which might carry similarities to processes of early life on Earth. Outside of the lab, I enjoy putting together public engagement and outreach events relating to Astrobiological themes.
Athanasios Papadopoulos
I am a Masters-Student in Biology at the time, working with lichens which are well established model organisms in astrobiological research. My current project is about lichens-associated bacterial microbiome. In this frame, I use to study the viability of microorganisms after exposure to space conditions. The main aspects of my work concentrate on lichen-associated and putative extremotolerant bacteria in focus of their potential benefits to cope extraterrestrial conditions by symbiotic lifestyle.
Alex Price
I am currently studying for my PhD at The Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. My research focuses on microbial metabolisms which would be viable in past and present martian environments. I am currently working with anaerobic nitrate-dependent iron-oxidising bacteria, which may have suited the anoxic sediments of early martian lakes. I did my Masters in microbiology at Bergen University, Norway, on endolithic communities in Antarctic gypsum samples. Come and say “Hi” at the next AbGradE!
Petra Schwendner
I received my PhD in the fascinating field of microbiology focusing on microbial diversity of extreme environments. Since 2014, I have been involved in the MASE (Mars Analogues for Space Exploration) project working at the University of Edinburgh and recently moved on to study hypobarophiles at the Space Life Sciences Lab in Florida. I am looking forward to meeting you at AbGradE.
Hector-Andreas Stavrakakis
I am currently an undergraduate on my 4th year, studying at the National Technical University of Athens, School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering. I investigate the use of electrokinetics for the production of the essentials in energy and habitability in the frame of a future Mars Manned Mission, but also other space missions. The main goal is to extract water from the Martian Soil and hydrolyse it to produce hydrogen for energy and oxygen for respiration.
Ruth-Sophie Taubner
I`m a last year PhD-student at the University of Vienna. At the moment, I’m working on my PhD-thesis which handles the possible habitability of Enceladus’ potential subsurface water reservoir. This thesis is very interdisciplinary, including calculations about the inner structure of Enceladus, assumptions about the chemistry going on in this icy moon, and a lot of experimental microbiological work in the laboratory. In my spare time I enjoy to do sports, like playing tennis or soccer, hiking, mountain biking, or running.

Former AbGradE committee members:
  • Iris M. Madsen (2016-2017)
  • Angela M. Garcia Sanchez (2015-2017)
  • Bo Byloos (2014-2017)
  • Maximilian Mora (2014-2017)
  • Baptiste Journaux (2015-2016)
  • Alexandra Perras (2015-2016)
  • Michaela Musilova (2014-2016)
  • Adam Stevens (2014-2016)
  • Cyprien Verseux (2014-2016)
  • Lena Noack (2013-2016)
  • Eugenio Simoncini (2013-2016)
  • Toby Samuels (2014-2016)
  • Paloma Serrano (2013-2015)
  • Thomas Gautier (2014)
  • Vassilissa Vinogradoff (2014)