Sanjoy Som

Contact Information
Email :
Other Affiliation: 
Coop/Blue Marble Space
Professional Background
Professional Biography: 
Welcome! As an astrobiologist, my research broadly investigates how the rock record can preserve properties of an ancient atmosphere, and how the rocks can create or contribute to an atmosphere; a discipline I like to call "Atmospheric Geology". Atmospheric gases and/or gases released in water-rock reactions are fundamental in metabolic processes, and so I enjoy thinking about the role life has in modulating the concentration of gases (atmospheric or not), and how the concentration of those gases modulate biological "lifestyle" (survival, maintenance, growth).

As examples, I investigate how ancient raindrop craters can record atmospheric density, how gas bubbles trapped as amygdales in ancient lava flows can record atmospheric pressure, and how channel morphology can be an indicator of flow sustainability (the latter in the context of Mars). I'm also very interested in the topographic evolution of Mars.

At Ames, I focus on the latter part of this interest: how rocks can create or contribute to an atmosphere. Specifically, I am investigating the connection between geology, geochemistry, and microbiology in serpentinizing systems, through a combination of field, laboratory and theoretical studies. Deep-sea exploration has been a growing interest of mine, overprinted on the space exploration passion that has fueled my career. To that end, I have been involved with research cruises on-board the R/V Atlantis, and have explored the sea-floor both robotically (ROV Jason), and physically (DSV Alvin).

Ph.D. in Planetary Sciences and certificate in Astrobiology -- University of Washington, 2010
M.Sc. in Aeronautics and Astronautics -- University of Washington, 2004
B.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering -- Florida Institute of Technology, 2002

Select Publications: 

  • Stüeken E., Anderson R., Bowman J., Brazelton W., Colangelo-Lillis J., Goldman A., Som S., Baross J. "Did life originate from a global chemical reactor?" Geobiology. doi: 10.1111/gbi.12025. 2013.
  • Som S., Hagadorn J., Thelen W., Gillespie A., Catling D., Buick R. " Quantitative discrimination between geological materials with variable density contrast by high resolution X-ray computed tomography: an example using amygdule size-distribution in ancient lava flows". Computers & Geosciences. Accepted.
  • Penido J., Fassett C., Som S. "Scaling relationships and concavity of small valley networks on Mars". Planetary and Space Science 75(1), pp. 105 - 116, 2013.
  • Haqq-Misra J., Busch M., Som S., Baum S. "The benefits and harms of transmitting into space". Space Policy. Accepted (to be published 02/13).
  • Som S., Catling D., Harnmeijer J., Polivka P., Buick R. "Air density 2.7 billion years ago limited to less than twice present levels by fossil raindrop imprints." Nature 484, 359 - 362, 2012. (pdf)
  • Som S., Foing B. "Thermal degradation of organic material by portable laser Raman spectrometry" International Journal of Astrobiology 11(3), 177 - 186, 2012. (pdf)
  • Som S., "An International Symbol for the Sustained Exploration of Space." Space Policy ,(24) 140-142, doi:10.1016/j.spacepol.2010.05.002, 2010. (pdf)
  • Som S., Adam Z., Vance S. "Use the Water: In-Situ Resource Technology for Icy-Surface Landers." Acta Astronautica (64) 1006-1010. doi: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2009.01.004, 2009.
  • Som S., Montgomery D., Greenberg H., "Scaling Relations for Large Martian Valleys". Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets, 114, E02005. doi:10.1029/2008JE003132, 2009. (pdf)
  • Montgomery D., Som S., Schreiber B.C., Jackson M., Gillespie A., Adams J. "Continental-Scale Salt Tectonics on Mars and the Origin of Valles Marineris and Associated Outflow Channels". GSA Bulletin, (121) 117-133, doi: 10.1130/B26307.1, 2009.
  • Som S., Greenberg H., Montgomery D. "The Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter Dataset: Limitations and Improvements". Mars: The International Journal of Mars Science and Exploration (4) 14-26, doi:10.1555/mars.2008.0002, 2008. (pdf)
  • Bourgeois J., and Som S. "Stratigraphic architectures spotted in southern Melas Chasma, Valles Marineris, Mars: Comment". Geology, e145, doi.10.1130/G24181C.1, 2007 (html).
  • Som S., Kimball J., Hermanson J., Allen J. "Stability and Heat Transfer Characteristics of Unsteady Condensing and Evaporating Films". International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer (50) 1927-1937, doi:10.1016/j.ijheatmasstransfer.2006.09.031, 2007.

Curriculum Vita: 
Other Information
NASA Missions: 
Fruit Fly Lab (FFL-01) - Systems Engineer