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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 (Ruth-Sophie Taubner).

The list of current members is (sorted by last name):
Mickael Baqué
I recently obtained my PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Rome "Tor Vergata" where my thesis was focused on the desert cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis as a model organism 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).
Bo Byloos
I am second year PhD student working at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK-CEN) at Mol, Belgium in collaboration with the University of Ghent. With my PhD project I amtrying to understand the effect of space conditions on microbe-mineral interactions and more in particular the interactions of Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34 on basalt, a volcanic lunar -type rock. These interactions can be used to do in situ resource utilization, extract elements from planetary regolith and life support. Looking forward to meeting you at the next AbGradE event!
Marta Filipa Cortesao
I finished my Masters in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Porto, having done the thesis on UV-resistance genes at the Centre for Astrobiology (CAB) in Madrid. Since then I have worked at the DLR in Cologne with bacterial spores under simulated space conditions. I am now a PhD candidate with focus on microgravity adaptation, who loves Astrobiology, travelling, education and outreach!
Niloofar Feshangsaz
I carried out my study in Tehran, Iran where I received my Master of Science degree in Biophysics and I was guest student of ACTA-VU University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, doing most of my research at ESA-ESTEC and Leiden University. My master thesis was on extreme halophiles under simulated space conditions, entitled “Effects of solar UV radiation, vacuum, microgravity and desiccation on the proteome and carotenoid pigments of halophilic microorganism”.
Iris M. Madsen
I`m studying mathematics at the university of Copenhagen, where I specialized in computer science. Looking forward, I`ll be focusing my studies on project management and innovation.
I got involved in AbGrade with the KU iGEM `16 team and space project “CosmoCrops”. While still working on “CosmoCrops”, I`m mentoring the KU iGEM `17 team, continually pursuing my passion for space and tries to explore every corner of earth.
I`m proud and happy to be a part of AbGradE, and I can`t wait to meet y`all!
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.
Angela M. Garcia Sanchez
I`m a PhD student at the IRNAS-CSIC in Seville (Spain), working in the field of Geomicrobiology. Last year, I studied lava tubes of Galapagos Islands as suitable environments to acquire valuable data for comparative astrobiological studies between Earth’s and Mars’s subsurface. I had the chance to present my results at the EANA 2015 Conference, an unique experience. In my spare time, I enjoy to travel and discover different cultures. I am happy to be a member of this fascinating community!
Maximilian Mora
I received my Master´s degree in biology with a focus on microbiology at the University of Regensburg in Germany and currently I am a PhD student at the Medical University of Graz in Austria. I am working mainly on the joint ESA-Roscosmos project ARBEX (ARchaeal and Bacterial EXtremophiles onboard the International Space Station ISS), investigating the cultivable and uncultivable indoor microbiome of the ISS and comparable ground control sites (e.g. spacecraft assembly clean rooms).
Philippe Nauny
PhD student at the University of Glasgow, I use the Atacama desert and the Chilean Altiplano as environmental analogues for Mars. My project aims to characterise underground ecological niches and to investigate the preservation of biosignatures in the soil.
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. I am looking forward to meet you in Athens!
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. The last years I focused on microbial diversity of extremophilic microorganisms with regard to planetary protection considerations and confined habitats (MARS 500 facility). Currently, I am working at the University of Edinburgh and am involved in the MASE (Mars Analoques for Space Exploration) project and am looking forward to meeting you at AbGradE.
Ruth-Sophie Taubner
I’m a third year PhD-student at the Research Platform: ExoLife, 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:
  • Alexandra Perras (2015-2016)
  • Baptiste Journaux (2015-2016)
  • Marta Filipa Cortesao (2015-2016)
  • Cyprien Verseux (2014-2016)
  • Adam Stevens (2014-2016)
  • Michaela Musilova (2014-2016)
  • Eugenio Simoncini (2013-2016)
  • Lena Noack (2013-2016)
  • Toby Samuels (2014-2016)
  • Paloma Serrano (2013-2015)
  • Thomas Gautier (2014)
  • Vassilissa Vinogradoff (2014)