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Watch Now: The search for life as we don’t know it

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Earth is the only place in the Universe where we know life definitely exists. But does that mean life, if it exists elsewhere, will always thrive in Earth-like conditions, with our particular set of chemicals, temperatures, and pressures? 

Heather Graham is a fellow in CIFAR’s Earth 4D: Subsurface Science & Exploration program and a research associate at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. She is an organic geochemist with a profound curiosity about the natural world, the history of life, the vast connections between biotic and abiotic systems, and what evolution can tell us about our future.

Graham’s research focuses on the fundamental scientific development of tools and techniques that can help us identify “agnostic biosignatures” — evidence of living systems that may not share common biochemistry with life on Earth. With a diverse background in biology, analytical chemistry, paleontology, and statistical modeling, Graham combines her expertise in the expression and preservation of chemical biosignatures with an understanding of the constraints of space flight instrumentation.

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