ASU-NASA Space Grant, Undergraduate, School of Earth and Space Exploration
Research Interests: Astrobiology, Europa, Space Exploration, Biosignatures, Evolution of Life, Origin of Life, Genetics, Planetary Science
Education: A.S.'s in Science, Art, General Education, and Art Education from Mesa Community College; B.S. in Astrobiology with minors in Political Science and Biology from Arizona State University; ASU NASA Space Grant (2017 – 2019)
Current Research: My research aims to determine the habitability, probability, and characteristics of potential life on Europa with an emphasis on biosignatures. This moon of Jupiter is a prime location to search for extraterrestrial life due to the presence of a liquid ocean beneath its icy surface. Despite the harsh surface radiation, and potentially several miles of thick ice shielding the ocean, geysers and cracks along Europa’s surface could still contain life brought up from within said ocean. To help guide the future search, expectations, and sampling locations for life on Europa there are analogues on Earth such as Blood Falls in Antarctica and various areas of Iceland that have harsh, icy environments with subglacial lakes. These areas also contain unique ecosystems with chemoautotrophic life which might be reflective of the conditions we expect to find on Europa. My approach to using these analogues will be the analysis of metagenomic data sampled at these locations, the construction of biochemical networks that represent the biochemistry encoded in the metagenomes from these sites, and the development of potential biosignatures for Europa using both patterns from the previously created reaction networks as well as molecular assembly. This will determine the signatures of complex molecules as well as their abiotic and biological likelihoods in Europa-like environments
Personal: My name is Alexa and upon obtaining my PhD I plan to find employment with NASA and then later transition into politics. I very much want to help play a part in the search for life in the universe, with Europa being a significant area of interest for me. Science is not my only career interest, however, as I am also very passionate about politics. I firmly believe that the world would be a much better place if we had more scientifically inclined individuals in positions of political power. To accomplish this, I intend to heavily involve myself in the legislative processes that govern our country and inspire others to do the same. Along the way, I would like to continue my efforts to engage in educational outreach and science communication, while also promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in my local community.
When I'm not working, I like to engage in a plethora of hobbies that are as widely varied as my research interests. Some of these are: playing with my cats, reading, writing, solving puzzles, gaming, sword play, singing, painting, hanging with friends, playing board games, dancing, going to art museums, attending conventions (in cosplay too!), camping, studying military history, watching my favorite movies, and adding to my ever growing collection of statues, action figures, comics, books, posters, etc. Music and art are also topics I am especially enthusiastic about, as they are both central to my way of life and the way many cultures on our planet connect.