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Laura Rodriguez

Photo of Laura Rodriguez


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 183-301

Pasadena, CA 91109



Curriculum Vitae:

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Member of:

Laboratory Studies


  • Ph.D. Geosciences and Astrobiology (Penn State, 2019)
  • B.S. Earth Science-Geochemistry; Minor in Biochemistry and Cell Biology (Rice University, 2013)

Professional Experience

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2019-Present)

  • Postdoctoral Fellow in the Origins and Habitability Laboratory
  • Investigating redox geochemistry of phosphorus and phosphorylation of organics
  • Member of the InVADER team ( The goal of InVADER is to test the readiness of an underwater Raman and LIBS system to characterize habitability and detect life at hydrothermal vents.

Penn State University (2013-2019)

  • Graduate Teaching Assistant, Dept. of Geosciences, Penn State
    • Laboratory Instructor for Physical Geology (2017)
    • TA for Earth in the Future (2019)

Graduate Research Fellow (2013-2019)

  • Investigated the chemical reactivity of nitrogen heterocycles in complex prebiotic mixtures to discern plausible structures of RNA precursors.

NASA Ames Research Center (Summer 2012)

  • NASA Academy Intern (Biosignatures on Mars, pigments in endoliths, and discerning life detection techniques to include on a prototype of a Europa submersible (group project))

Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University (Summer 2011)

  • Lamont Summer Intern Program (Determine if there was evidence of an ocean-impact event 1500 years ago in the Gulf of Carpentaria)

Research Interests

I am an astrobiologist and organic geochemist with broad interests in testing (1) whether life could originate on ocean worlds (i.e. in the absence of wet-dry cycles) and (2) how minerals may have catalyzed this process. In particular, I aim to understand the geochemical evolution of phosphorus, electron transfer co-factors, and genetic precursors on wet-rocky worlds and in astromaterials. I am also working to develop analytical techniques and robust strategies to search for extraterrestrial life on Ocean Worlds.

Selected Awards

  • Co-Chair 2022 Origins of Life Gordon Research Seminar
  • Co-I, JPL Spontaneous R&TD, A New Magnet Electron Detection Technique for Astrobiology (2020)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Graduate Scholarship (2017-2019)
  • Penn State Astrobiology’s Richard Standish Good Graduate Scholarship (2016)
  • Ford Predoctoral Fellowship, “The Plausibility of an Fe-S linked pre-RNA” (2015-2018)
  • NASA Pennsylvania Space Grant Scholarship (2013)
  • NASA Astrobiology Early Career Collaboration Award (2013)

Selected Publications

  1. L. E. Rodriguez, C. H. House, K. E. Smith, M. R. Roberts, and M. P. Callahan, Nitrogen heterocycles form peptide nucleic acid precursors in complex prebiotic mixtures, Scientific Reports 9, 9281 (2019)
  2. L. E. Rodriguez, L. M. Barge, J. Major, M. A. Pasek, and D. Vander Velde, Phosphorus Redox Geochemistry on Rocky Worlds: Exploring Phosphite Oxidation and Organic Phosphorylation Catalyzed by Iron and Manganese Oxyhydroxides, 51st LPSC, Abstract 1667 (2020).
  3. L. E. Rodriguez, The Building Blocks of Life in Ch. 4 (Section 4.1.2) Chemistry to Life, Astrobiology 3.0 Primer. Lead Eds: Micah Schaible, Nadia Szeinbaum, George Tan; Chapter Ed: Niraja Bapat (In Prep).