Lynn Rothschild is passionate about the evolution of life on Earth or elsewhere, while at the same time pioneering the use of synthetic biology to enable space exploration. Just as travel abroad permits new insights into home, so too the search for life elsewhere allows a more mature scientific, philosophical and ethical perception of life on Earth. She is a scientist NASA and Adjunct Professor at Brown, and the UC Santa Cruz.
Her research has focused on how life, particularly microbes, has evolved in the context of the physical environment, both here and potentially elsewhere. She founded and ran the first three Astrobiology Science Conferences (AbSciCon), was the founding co-editor of the Intl Journal of Astrobiology, and is the former director of the Astrobiology Strategic Analysis and Support Office. Astrobiology research includes examining a protein-based scenario for the origin of life, hunting for extremophiles, and determining signatures for life elsewhere. Rothschild has brought her creativity to the field of synthetic biology, articulating a vision for the use of synthetic biology for NASA’s missions.
She is the Bio and Bio-Inspired Technologies, Research and Technology Lead for NASA’s Science Technology Mission Directorate. Since 2011 she has been the faculty advisor of the award-winning Stanford-Brown iGEM team, which has pioneered the use of synthetic biology to accomplish NASA’s mission, particularly focusing on the human settlement of Mars, astrobiology and such innovative technologies as BioWires and making a biodegradable UAS (drone) and bioballoon.
Her lab will move these ideas into space in the form of the PowerCell synthetic biology secondary payload on a DLR satellite, EuCROPIS. She is a fellow of the Linnean Society of London, The California Academy of Sciences and the Explorer’s Club. In 2015, she was awarded the Isaac Asimov Award from the American Humanist Association, and was the recipient of the Horace Mann Award from Brown.