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Samuel Kounaves

Disciplines: Chemistry
Employment: Visiting Professor at Imperial College London, Affiliate Scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Education: Université de Genève
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Samuel P. Kounaves is a Professor of Chemistry and Adjunct Professor of Earth & Ocean Sciences at Tufts University He is also an Affiliate Scientist at the NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Earth Science & Engineering at Imperial College London. He received a B.S. and M.S. from the California State University-San Diego in 1976/78 and a Ph.D(D.Sc.) from the Université de Genève, Switzerland, in 1985. After post-doctoral fellowships at SUNY-Buffalo and Harvard University, he joined the faculty at Tufts University in 1988. His research interests are aimed at unraveling fundamental questions in planetary science using the techniques of modern analytical chemistry and electrochemically-based sensors with a focus on biogeochemical analysis in extreme environments. A major area of interest has been the use of in-situ autonomous chemical analysis systems to understand martian aqueous geochemistry, its history, and its potential for supporting past or present microbial life in the regolith or subsurface environments. He is also involved in applying similar techniques to investigate the surface and sub-glacial oceans on the icy moons such as Europa and Enceladus. His group's research in astrobiology is focused on exploring concepts and analytical techniques for unambiguous detection of microbial life in extraterrestrial settings, and the survivability of organics on Mars' surface. As Co-Investigator for the Phoenix Mars Lander mission, and Lead Scientist for the Wet Chemistry Lab (WCL), he led the first chemical analysis on Mars that revealed an alkaline soil containing a variety of soluble minerals, including perchlorate, a discovery that has altered the way we view the chemistry of Mars and its potential to support life. A finding that led to its discovery in the Antarctic Dry Valleys and provided the first unambiguous evidence of ubiquitous natural perchlorate formation on Earth. Prof. Kounaves has co/authored over 90 peer-reviewed publications and has received over 35 grants from various funding agencies including NASA, NSF, and EPA. He has received numerous honors, including being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry; NASA Achievement Awards for the Phoenix Mars mission and his work leading to the first wet chemical analysis in the Martian Arctic; the Massachusetts Quincentennial Exploration & Discovery Award; and the Arno Heyn Award from the NE Section of the American Chemical Society.


Imperial College London (2014-05-05 to present)

Visiting Professor in Earth Science and Engineering


NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (2004-08-09 to present)

Affiliate Scientist

Pasadena, CA

Tufts University

Professor of Chemistry in Chemistry

Medford, MA


Université de Genève, Département de Chimie Minérale et Analytique ( to 1985)



San Diego State University, Chemistry ( to 1978)


San Diego, CA

San Diego State University, Chemistry ( to 1975)


San Diego, CA


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Investigation of Oxychlorines Generated During Production of ClO4 on Mineral Surfaces and their Effects on Organics

2014-07-01 to 2017-06-30

Grant Number:  NNX14AG40G

National Science Foundation - Directorate for Geosciences

Collaborative Research: Development of a Sensor Array for In-situ Real-time Measurement of Deep Ocean and Hydrothermal Vent Chemistry

2011-07-15 to 2014-06-30

Grant Number:  1060945

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

In-Situ Wet Chemical Analysis Lab & Sensor Array (CHEMSENS)

2010-07-01 to 2013-06-30

Grant Number:  NNX10AJ93G