Sam Kounaves


Co-Investigator, Wet Chemistry Lab Lead, Chemical Analysis,
Tufts University


Sam Kounaves

Samuel Kounaves is currently a Professor of Chemistry in the Chemistry Department at Tufts University in Medford MA. He received his BS/MS from Cal State San Diego in 1976/78 and his Ph.D from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, in 1985. After post-doctoral fellowships at SUNY-Buffalo and Harvard University, he joined the faculty at Tufts University in 1988.

As head of the In-Situ Planetary Chemical Analysis Lab at Tufts, his research interests are aimed at unraveling fundamental questions in planetary science using the techniques of modern analytical chemistry. A major area of interest is the use of in-situ autonomous chemical analysis systems to further understanding of martian geochemistry, its history, and its potential for supporting past or present microbial life in the regolith or subsurface environments. In the longer term, he is also interested in applying similar techniques to investigate the surface and sub-glacial oceans on Jupiter's moon, Europa.

During the past 15 years he has lead a variety of research projects for in-situ study of natural aqueous and geochemical systems and in the science of making in-situ chemical measurements. A life-long interest in space science lead him in 1997 to join the science team for the now cancelled 2001 Mars Surveyor Program MECA Wet Chemistry Lab. He is currently leading research efforts towards understanding the chemistry of the Martian regolith via several NASA supported projects, including the In-Situ Robotic Chemical Analysis Lab (RCAL), designed for performing a variety of automated chemical analyses for in-situ planetary missions, and an electrochemically based total inorganic/organic carbon analyzer (TIC-TOC) for Martian soil analysis.

As co-investigator and part of the Phoenix science team, he will lead the chemical interpretation of the MECA Wet Chemistry Lab inorganic and electrochemical analyses of the soil/ice constituents, their relationship to past/present Martian geochemistry, and the potential of the Martian environment to support microbial life. He will help develop sampling and analytical methodologies that ensure viable and reliable chemistry results. Based on synthetic, simulant, and model systems, he and his group will develop a comprehensive response library to enable accurate qualitative and quantitative interpretation of Martian geochemistry data return.

He has been awarded over 17 major grants from NSF, EPA, DOE, and NASA, has authored over 60 publications, and holds 4 Patents. In his "spare time" he also serves as an elected member of his town's school board and is webmaster of several educational scientific websites.

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