About Us

Agnostic Life Finding Association – Mars

ALFA Mars consists of a group of scientists, engineers, science communicators and volunteers aiming to determine whether indigenous life is present today on Mars before humans walk on its surface.

ALFA Mars is supported by the Mars Society. 



The ALFA Mars team is administered by Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution (ffame.org). FfAME was founded in 2001 by a team of scientists at the University of Florida, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Texas to advance medicine using synthetic biology, and to understand life, what it is, and how to find it in the cosmos.

FfAME has operated for two decades at the frontier between science and technology, serving NASA, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the public.

 Scientists at FfAME and its affiliates have developed three critical hypotheses:

  • Life emerged on Mars near the same time, and in much the same way, as life emerged on Earth 4.35 billion years ago.
  • Life was sustained in Mars ice-dirt layers at mid-latitudes, as Mars evolved.
  • Martian life can be found by looking for its genetic molecules, whose structures are defined by synthetic biology.

ALFA Mars is actively seeking research and industry collaborators, volunteers, and financial support.

Jan Špaček
Dr. Jan Spacek, inventor of ALF (Agnostic Life Finder), founder of ALFA Mars project. Senior research scientist at Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, molecular biologist, and analytical (electro)chemist.
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Steven Benner
Dr. Steven Benner, founder of the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution and Firebird Biomolecular Sciences. Expert in astrobiology, synthetic biology, paleogenetics, and evolutionary bioinformatics.
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Lyle White
Prof. Lyle Whyte, McGill University; Member, McGill Space Institute. Lyle studies the ecology and activity of microbial communities at subzero temperatures in high arctic analogues to Martian environments.
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Victor Parro
Prof. Victor Parro, PhD, Senior Scientist at Spanish Astrobiology Center (Centro de Astrobiología), studies the environmental microbiology of extremophiles. Victor searches for (alien) biomolecules using antibody microarrays in Antarctica.
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Alberto Fairén
Alberto Fairén, Research Full Professor at the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Spain, and a Visiting Scientist at the Cornell University. Alberto searches for life on early Mars and looks for common ground between human spaceflight and astrobiology.
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Ximena C. Abrevaya
Dr. Ximena Abrevaya is an Astrobiologist, Senior Research Scientist at Instituto de Astronomía y Física del Espacio, Argentina, and Founding Director of the Argentinian Research Unit in Astrobiology (Astrobio.ar). Her expertise in Astrobiology involves interdisciplinary studies, combining astrophysics, biology, and geology.
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Chris Temby
Chris Temby received his Bachelors of Science degree in Physics, with minors in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences and History, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is an aspiring astrobiologist and astronaut, and currently a private pilot and scuba divemaster.
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Gabby Rizzo
Gabby Rizzo is a fourth-year student in Microbiology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is interested in the search for evidence of past or present life beyond Earth by optimizing processes that we are familiar with, and comparing our extreme environments to those in outer space.
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Courtney Pasternak
Courtney is a Junior at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University studying Aerospace Engineering with a concentration in Astronautics, while minoring in computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM).
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Charles Cockell
Charles Cockell is professor of Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh. His scientific interests are on life in extremes, habitability and the human exploration of space.
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Sean Brown
Sean Brown, a Biological Sciences PhD candidate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, explores astrobiology, synthetic biology, and theoretical biochemistry. His research delves into the question of how an alien or alternative protein biochemistry might differ from what we know here on Earth.
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Janusz Pętkowski
Dr. Janusz Pętkowski is an astrobiologist, Research Affiliate in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) at MIT. Janusz is a Deputy PI on the MIT-Breakthrough Venus Life Finder Mission Concept Study.
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Shannon Boettcher
Prof. Shannon Boettcher is a Director of the Oregon Center for Electrochemistry and an expert in inorganic materials science and fundamental electrochemistry, including membrane electrodialysis.
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Sukrit Ranjan
Sukrit Ranjan is Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Arizona. His research interests lie in modeling the surface-atmosphere system of rocky planets with an emphasis on early Earth and terrestrial exoplanets, in service of (1) efforts to understand the emergence of life on Earth and (2) to search for life on exoplanets.
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Kate Sheldon
Kate Sheldon is a freshman at Princeton University studying astrophysics and chemistry. Kate intends to work in astrobiology and astrochemistry and hopes to study life on Mars – while on Mars.
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Caden Howlett
Caden Howlett is a PhD candidate in Geosciences at the University of Arizona, broadly interested in the processes that create and destroy mountain belts. He is a field-based structural geologist who integrates geologic mapping and field observation with geochronology and geochemistry.
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Devanshi Kacholia
Devanshi Kacholia is a master's graduate in Geoinformation Science. She specializes in Martian geology and data analysis using ML/AI. When not working, she trains for basketball and dancing.
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Catherine Maggiori
Catherine Maggiori is a Ph.D. candidate (Microbiology) at McGill University studying life detection methods and extremophile characterization in Mars analog environments.
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Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez
Dr. Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez is a ‘María Zambrano’ excellence program postdoctoral researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), specializing in microbial ecology of Mars terrestrial analogs and extreme environments.
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Daisy Sharma
Daisy Sharma is a 4th-year student at the University of Florida studying Astrophysics, Vice President of the Astronomy & Astrophysics Society, working on the Venus cloud chemistry.
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Erik Bethke
Erik Bethke, CEO of Million on Mars, online game developer focused on settling the solar system. Created Starfleet Command and GoPets. Exited to Zynga, leadership on MafiaWars and FarmVille. Wrote Game Design and Production, and Settlers of the New Virtual Worlds.
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Gage Owens
Gage Owens is a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry at the University of Washington. He has worked in synthetic biology and organic chemistry at Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution.
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Olivia Traenkle
Olivia Traenkle is a chemist and marine scientist, a PhD candidate working in Electrochemistry and Material Science Laboratory (University of Oregon) on bipolar membrane water electrolysis.
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Hannah Dromiack
Hannah Dromiack is a Ph.D. candidate (Physics) at Arizona State University studying new methods for agnostic life detection using macroscale behaviors displayed by living organisms. She also is a contractor for NASA Ames Research Center researching Martian rotorcraft and future uses.
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Tomáš Petrásek
Tomáš Petrásek is a Czech neuroscientist, astronomy popularizer, astrobiology teacher and science fiction writer, a member of Czech space enthusiast society Kosmo Klub. He leads an astrobiology course at the Charles University, Prague.
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Ligia Fonseca Coelho
Dr. Lígia Fonseca Coelho is a Fulbright Researcher at the Department of Astronomy, Cornell University. Lígia is interested in biosignatures (pigments), extreme environments, and planetary field analogs.
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Zack Cohen
Zack Cohen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Chemistry department and Astrobiology program at the University of Washington in Seattle. Zack investigates the behavior of fatty acid membranes.
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Ziqin Ni
Ziqin (Grace) Ni (University of Maryland) studies the development of analytical techniques and operational strategies to search for life’s signatures via spaceflight instrumentations.
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