Roger Summons

Professor Emeritus

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Renowned geoscientist integrating biogeochemistry, geobiology, and astrobiology to investigate the co-evolution of life and environments.

Research Interests

Roger Summons has wide ranging interests in biogeochemistry and geobiology. His research group studies the co-evolution of Earth’s early life and environment, microbially dominated ecosystems, the structure and biosynthesis of membrane lipids, biological mass extinction events and the origins of fossil fuels.

Summons is an investigator in the Simons Foundation Collaboration on the Origins of Life (SCOL).

He is also a member of the Sample Analysis on Mars (SAM) instrument team. SAM is a key part of the instrument payload aboard NASA’s Curiosity Rover and is being used to study organic matter within the rocks on Mars.

Topics I investigate:

  • Lipid chemistry of geologically significant microbes and microbially dominated ecosystems
  • Organic and isotopic indicators of climate change, biotic evolution and mass extinction
  • Age- and environment-diagnostic biomarkers in sediments and petroleum
  • Archean, Proterozoic and extraterrestrial biogeochemical fossils

Key Awards & Honors

  • 2020 • Member, National Academy of Sciences
  • 2012 • Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
  • 2008 • Fellow, Royal Society of London
  • 2008 • Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize
  • 2006 • Fellow, American Geophysical Union