Madeline Garner recently received a NASA ASA FINESST award to study life detection
technologies. Madeline graduated with her bachelors degree from the College of Coastal
Georgia, where she majored in Biology with a concentration in Biochemistry and a minor in
Environmental Sciences. Her first introduction to astrobiology was through the SETI Institute’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in 2019, under the mentorship of Dr. Kathryn Bywaters. Her project explored the potential of using solid-state nanopore technology for biosignature detection. This work led to the foundational questions that are proposed in her FINESST award. After graduating, Garner participated in Blue Marble Space Institute's (BMSIS) Young Scientist Program, where she worked with two groups. The first was the Plants in Space Action Group, and the second was with Dr. Scott Perl and the Origin and Habitability Laboratory at JPL. Madeline began her graduate studies this fall at Montana State University under the advisement of Dr. Christine Foreman, and she will continue to collaborate with Dr. Bywaters and Dr. Perl.
Madeline will investigate how solid-state nanopore technology can be utilized as a life detection instrument. Solid-state nanopore technology offers a potential space flight adaptable technology for the detection of relevant biomolecules on extraterrestrial bodies. Future applications could target the icy moons, Europa and Enceladus, which may offer the opportunity to examine fresh samples for biosignature detection. Madeline’s proposed research has three objectives. The first is to study the solid-state nanopore's ability to maintain a stable baseline in Europa and Enceladus simulated seawater. The second will examine the chip’s capability of detecting and differentiating λ DNA and RNA under these conditions. The final objective is to assess the nanopore’s ability to perform in-situ investigations of planetary field site analogs. The results of this will be a crucial step in defining the limitations and applications of this technology for life detection applications.