Dr. Laura E. Rodriguez
Dr. Laura Rodriguez is an organic geochemist and data scientist with broad research interests in the origins of life, abiotic organic chemistry, and chemometrics. Her main research aims to elucidate how geochemical environments drive the chemical evolution of organic materials, especially genetic precursors (e.g., N-heterocycles). In particular, she is interested in investigating whether the origins of life events could take place in oceanic environments, such as those on icy ocean worlds.
Generally, Dr. Rodriguez takes a three-pronged approach to her work (1) prebiotic studies, (2) benchmarking experiments with planetary analogs (e.g., hydrothermal vents, lunar samples, meteorites, returned samples), and (3) developing chemometric tools that facilitate the analysis of complex spectra and the search for life using a combination of machine learning, laser spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry.
In addition, one of her major goals is to develop strategies that would enable investigations of complex prebiotic mixtures under a wide range of conditions that could not be achieved (due to resource limitations) by experiment alone (i.e., by leveraging machine learning and computational-based approaches).
Dr. Rodriguez is passionate about bridging the fields of prebiotic chemistry, data science, and the development of mission concepts for sample return/life detection on other worlds. Currently, she is a participating scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory team working to develop strategies that would enable the identification of organic carbon using ChemCam LIBS. She is also a member of the Mars Science Return Campaign Group, science co-lead for the NIAC-funded Enceladus Vent Explorer mission concept, and completed the JPL Planetary Science Summer School, where she helped design a comet surface sample return mission that was reviewed by NASA leadership.