I have always been interested in the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. Our celestial next door neighbor, Mars, is a great place to search for a past or present habitable environment and preserved microbial life.

My postdoctoral research at Goddard Space Flight Center focuses on the preservation of chemical biosignatures, such as lipids, in iron (III)-dominated systems. This research is applied to the optimization of techniques to identify preserved lipids in Martian rocks, if present, using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on board NASA's Mars Curiosity rover.

My dissertation research at the University of California, Davis, explored the formation and preservation of microbial filaments as biosignatures via iron mineralization in terrestrial gossans (oxidized ore bodies). This research was applied to the search for similar morphologic biosignatures in other terrestrial and martian environments.

Organisms identified forming morphologic and chemical biosignatures in the Iron Mountain surface gossan in California continue to improve insights into the transition from microbe to biosignature, furthering the search for mineralogic biosignatures in extraterrestrial environments.
This research also contributes to understanding the oxidizing massive sulfide deposit at Iron Mountain, northwest of Redding, CA. Information on previous and ongoing research at Iron Mountain is available here.


Dr. Amy Williams
Post-doctoral Research Associate
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/
University of Maryland Baltimore County
amywill "at" ucdavis.edu
amy.j.williams "at" nasa.gov