Finding Life: Spectral Biomarkers in Planetary Atmospheres
Physicist at Freie Universität Berlin Receives Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation
№ 225/2017 from Aug 24, 2017
The physicist Dr. Andreas Elsaesser from Freie Universität Berlin has been granted a Freigeist Fellowship from the Volkswagen Foundation for his research project "Finding Life: Spectral Biomarkers in Planetary Atmospheres." With the Freigeist grant of roughly one million euros, he aims to investigate molecules to determine whether they offer signs of possible life on other planets. A major focus will be on the stability and spectral detectability of organic molecules that can potentially be detected as so-called biomarkers or biosignatures in the atmosphere of a planet.
Andreas Elsaesser majored in physics at the Technical University of Munich and completed his doctorate in biophysics in 2012 at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK. He then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Since 2015 he has been a Postdoc International Fellow (POINT Fellow) and since 2017 Marie-Curie Fellow at Freie Universität in the NanoScale Focus Area and research assistant in the Experimental Molecular Biophysics Group. One of his main areas of research is the interaction between radiation and matter, in particular, the effects of radiation on organic molecules and biological systems. He investigates the stability of biomolecules both by means of the most advanced spectroscopic methods in ultraviolet and visible wavelengths up to infrared wavelength range as well as by means of mass spectroscopic techniques. Elsaesser is currently involved in several projects on the International Space Station (ISS), and together with colleagues from the German Aerospace Center, the European Space Agency, and NASA, with the goal of investigating the effect of solar and cosmic radiation on organic molecules and potential biomarkers. The knowledge gained will help identify potential organic molecules and their decay products and possibly detect them on other planets.
Through its Freigeist Fellowships the Volkswagen Foundation supports outstanding junior scholars who are interested in breaking new ground and who wish to carry out research at the boundaries between established fields of research.