Assistant Professor of Physics
Academic Program Affiliation(s): Physics
Biography:Professor Sousa-Silva comes to Bard after serving as a quantum astrochemist at the Center for Astrophysics, a collaboration between the Harvard College Observatory and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Prior to her tenure at the center, she was a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work investigates how molecules interact with light so that they can be detected on faraway worlds. Her July 2021 TED talk, “The Fingerprints of Life beyond Earth,” makes the case for a new way to seek and possibly discover habitable planets and shares her research into a poisonous, smelly molecule that might signal life beyond Earth. She has also served as the director of the Science Research Mentoring Program at the Center for Astrophysics and MIT; and was head of education for the Twinkle Space Mission, a British project to explore exoplanets, and coordinator for EduTwinkle, an outreach and educational program connecting British schools with space missions. Sousa-Silva is the recipient of the prestigious 51 Pegasi b Fellowship from the Heising-Simons Foundation, which supports the growing field of planetary astronomy; Sagan Fellowship (declined); and an MIT research grant for her proposal “Creating a Rosetta Stone for the Interpretation of Exoplanet Biospheres.” Her work and commentary have been featured on the BBC and in Wired and The New York Times, among other publications. Recent scholarly articles include “Phosphine as a Biosignature Gas in Exoplanet Atmospheres,” Astrobiology (2020); “Trivalent Phosphorus and Phosphines as Components of Biochemistry in Anoxic Environments,” Astrobiology (2019); and “New Environmental Model for Thermodynamic Ecology of Biological Phosphine Production,” Science of the Total Environment (2019).
Integrated MPhys, University of Edinburgh; PhD, University College London. At Bard since 2022.