Our search for life on Mars

Brent R. Stockwell, Ph.D.
2 min readNov 4, 2022


Congratulations to Joleen! I want to congratulate my graduate student Joleen Csuka, who was interviewed by a TV news show in Iceland about our effort to find biosignatures of life on other planets. Here is the link:

We’ve been working on this effort several years and recently published a first paper about this work:


Our strategy is to collect samples on Earth from lava tube environments that mimic the lava tubes on Mars, where life might still exist under the surface, protected from the harsh surface conditions.

Lava tube opening on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

We’re exploring the idea that certain lipids could serve as reliable indicators (biosignatures) of life on Mars, given that lipids don’t occur naturally in the absence of life, and that they have critical, shared functions across most life on Earth.

Lava tube image
Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

It was great to see the media take an interest in our work. Congrats Joleen!



Brent R. Stockwell, Ph.D.

Chair and Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. Top Medium writer in Science, Creativity, Health, and Ideas