Cathryn Sephus, BS, Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2019, University of Arizona

Anticipated AMP Graduation Date: 

Fall 2020

LinkedIn Profile:

Research Advisor and Department:                                     

Dr. Betül Kaçar, Molecular and Cellular Biology/ Astronomy

Research Topic:    

Astrobiology is a field of interdisciplinary research that seeks to answer questions, such as how did life on Earth originate, what are the mechanisms for the co-evolution of life and the environment, and whether or not life is possible elsewhere in the universe? In our lab, we investigate these questions from a molecular approach and strive to understand life’s operative strategies as well as learn how ancestral behaviors of proteins and their host systems change over time. I am currently working on reconstructing ancient marine microbial proteins with the goal of applying what I learn to the interpretation of ancient biosignatures in the future.

What do you like to do outside of the lab?                       

I enjoy painting, snorkeling, attempting to learn new languages, writing, and booking last minute flights to cities I’ve never been to before

What outreach or service activities are you involved in?                            

UA SEDS – University of Arizona Students for the Exploration and Development of Space MACS - Marine Awareness and Conservation Society Volunteer moderator.                                                     

Favorite Quotation:                                     

“A ship is safe in a harbor, but that’s not what ships were made for.” – Anonymous

Honors and Awards:

Galileo Scholar Arizona Computer Science Scholarship Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Young Scientist NASA Space Grant Ambassador


Looking for Methanol: Identifying the Expanse of the Galactic Habitable Zone, University of Arizona Library’s Thesis and Dissertation Database

Why did you choose to enter the MCB AMP Program?    

Ever since I was a kid, I had a fascination for both the stars in the sky and the grass under my feet, but I never thought that they were linked. As the years went by, this dual fascination only grew- fully manifesting itself in high school when I had already completed my science requirements, but still took both AP Biology and Earth + Space science classes my senior year. At the beginning of college, I still believed that studying these two fields was a mutually exclusive endeavor and that I had to choose one, before eventually finding the MCB department and a PI that understood the link between our planet and the universe better than anyone else. The MCB AMP Program gives me an opportunity to continue to learn more about molecular astrobiology, actively participate in research, and contribute to a body of knowledge I have been searching for my whole life.