Members of the International Committee

Martin Dominik


Martin Dominik is a Reader in Physics & Astronomy at the University of St Andrews, and has completed his doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) at the University of Dortmund (Germany) in 1996. He was drawn from theoretical physics into astronomy by the emerging field of 'gravitational lensing', i.e. the gravitational bending of light. Since 1993, Martin's research has focused on applications of the gravitational microlensing effect and in particular its potential for studying planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. Martin is a strong advocate of communication being an essential part of science, and science being an integral part of society and culture. He organised a Royal Society 350th anniversary Scientific Discussion Meeting on "The detection of extra-terrestrial life and the consequences for science and society". Martin has served on the Executive Committee of the Global Young Academy, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the Vietnam Young Academy and the SETI Permanent Committee of the International Academy of Astronautics. He is engaged in shaping research environments that make creative minds flourish, and is moreover involved in building capacity in fundamental sciences and improving education in the Middle East.

Elias Chatzitheodoridis


Dr Elias Chatzitheodoridis is Professor of Mineralogy-Petrology at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), and Director of the Laboratory of Mineralogy-Petrology-Economic Geology. He studied Geology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and acquired his MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Manchester, UK. He worked at the Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) in Heraklion, Crete, at the Technical University of Vienna (TUWien), and at the high-tech private company Austria Technologie & Systemtechnik AG (AT&S AG) at Leoben-Hinterberg, Austria. His research interests are in astrochemistry, astrobiology, and planetary sciences. He has also a strong applied research background on photonic technologies, micro- and nanotechnologies, lithography, microsystems (MEMS), and on the development of analytical instruments. He is CEO of the Network of Researchers on the Chemical Evolution of Life (NoRCEL), and Council Member of the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA). He has published more than a hundred peer reviewed scientific and technological papers, and he organised conferences in astrobiology and planetary sciences. He participated in a microgravity experiment through an ESA mission to the International Space Station (ISS) sending microorganisms to space. He is currently co-directing a working group of ESA’s ARIEL mission that will investigate exoplanet atmospheres. He is in the editorial board of the Astrobiology journal, he has reviewed articles in several journals, and he also reviewer and evaluator of many technological and space projects of the European Commission and of various National organisations.

Oleg Kotsyurbenko

Vice President

Oleg Kotsyurbenko is a Professor at Yugra State University, Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. He has graduated from Mendeleev University of Chemical Technology of Russia with a degree in biotechnology. He defended his PhD thesis at the Institute of Microbiology Russian Academy of Sciences and his Doctor degree in Biology at Lomonosov Moscow State University. His is an expert in field of Microbial Ecology, Microbial Diversity, Anaerobic Microbial Community, Methanogens. His research focuses on different aspects of extremophiles and their habitats as analogs to extraterrestrial ecosystems. He is currently undertaking microbiology and astrobiology studies in the framework of the space program Venera-D focused on the habitability of Venusian clouds.

Sohan Jheeta

Founder, Chairman and Editor in Chief.

It is mind bogglingly inconceivable that, in this vast and hugely complex Universe, life should arise only once. With a Universe full of clouds of dust and gas molecules; with its innumerable solar systems; and with an untold number of potentially Earth-like habitable planets – it is hard to believe that they should all be barren and not fit for life. My research could be considered to be frontier science, as currently we have very little knowledge of ‘how life began?’ or whether ‘there is life elsewhere in the Universe?’ These two questions are inextricably interlinked in that, as life exists on Earth, it is quite feasible that it should also flourish on extra-terrestrial worlds. To answer these questions, mechanisms have to be found whereby ‘non-living chemicals’ could be transformed into 3-dimensional ‘first’ living organisms. This process is often termed ‘chemical evolution.’ I am fortunate to be investigating the mysteries of life, the Universe and everything that’s in it…​

Rowena Ball

Deputy CEO

Dr Rowena Ball is an applied mathematician and physical chemist and currently holds the position of Associate Professor at the Australian National University, situated on Ngunnawal and Ngambri lands in Canberra, Australia. Since obtaining her PhD in 1997 she has held several prestigious research fellowships and competitive large grants, including an Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Lagrange Fellowship in Complex Systems, and an ARC Future Fellowship. She has had extensive interdisciplinary research experience, working with physicists, engineers, chemists and industry partners on real-world problems involving complex dynamical systems. Collectively her works have resulted in 75 peer-reviewed articles and numerous industry reports, book chapters, and print and web magazine articles and newsletters. She has been active in emergence of life research since 2013 and has published pioneering results on the role of fluctating thermochemical energy sources in driving prebiotic chemical complexity. Her cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural links and her Indigenous heritage continue to underpin the philosophy behind her community activities, that science can best provide transformative opportunities to reimagine a better future for humanity and the environment, by welcoming minorities and people from diverse backgrounds and respecting their knowledge and contributions.

Miryam Palacios-Pérez

Head, NoRCEL Latin America Hub

Miryam Palacios-Pérez is a young investigator and an active member of the Theoretical Biology Group at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). She completed her BSc and PhD studies at the same University. Her research, as a first author or in collaborations, has been focussed on the early evolution of life by using bioinformatic and theoretical approaches, tracing the evolution of biomolecules following its ancient codes. Miryam became the first Mexican member of the Member of the International Committee at NoRCEL. Additionally, she has collaborated in other type of works such as structural analyses of SARS-Cov2 virus.

Pauli Laine


Pauli Laine is a senior specialist in Finnish Government Agency, independent astrobiologist, and a PhD candidate in Jyväskylä, Finland. He received BSc degree in software engineering from the Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences in 1997, MSc degrees in information technology from the Tampere University of Technology and in cognitive science from the University of Jyväskylä, in 2010 and 2014, respectively. His current research interests in astrobiology include origin of life, habitability, detection methods of biosignatures, and multidisciplinary SETI research.

Kathy McGrath


Kathy acts as administrator for NoRCEL: contacting prospective members and conference attendees; sourcing and costing; collating and updating membership details; recording attendance statistics and monitoring the members’ information database. In the past, she has previously worked in the textile industry as both an independent design consultant and director of an international textile import business, as well being a visiting lecturer in various universities and colleges.

Ahya Rezaei


A master student in Remote Sensing at the University of Tabriz, Ahya also studied Plant protection as a degree student from 2014-2018. She believes that when a single domino moves, everything follows and that’s why Ahya likes to stay creative and aims at being first part of the domino, i.e., leadership. During her studies, she looked for something new, challenging and rewarding to take her beyond her comfort zone. Finally, after a lot of research and attending a vast number of national and international workshops, she realised that she wanted to work on plant growth in very difficult conditions on Earth, therefore Remote Sensing became part of her puzzle. Currently she is working on processing Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and optical images for agricultural purposes, like plant height, biomass and water content in order to study their conditions under any circumstances e.g., harsh conditions. In this area, trying to use deep learning methods to classify images, which are acquired via satellite in order to have easy interpretation of plants under study -using Python in Jupyter notebook. Subsequently joining NoRCEL in 2016 and then becoming an international committee member, she has gained a lot of networking experience and has also recognised that to build a successful network, you need to connect with people, which requires building and maintaining social connections and creating your own domino effect.

Vinod Kumar Gupta


Assistant Professor at the Department of Zoology at C.M. Dubey Post Graduate College, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, India. He obtained his master’s and D.Phil. degree from the University of Allahabad, UP, India. He has been working in the field of Origins of life for the last four decades and his applied interests are Systems Biology and Synthetic Biology. Dr Gupta is studying the abiogenesis of biomimetic protocell-like microstructures “Jeewanu” in a laboratory simulated, possible prebiotic atmosphere reported by Late Prof. Krishna Bahadur (India). Jeewanu, a biomimetic self-sustaining photoautotrophic supramolecular assembly has been found to show multiplication by budding, growing from within and can also show various metabolic activities. He is investigating the self-assembly of molecules in the possible primitive atmosphere and emergence of earliest energy transducing systems. He has observed that under certain specific conditions Jeewanu can catalyse photolytic decomposition of water utilising sunlight as a source of energy. He has several research publications and books to his name and has also organized several conferences in the field. He is also a Life member of Indian Photobiology Society.

Sávio Torres de Farias


A holder of Ph.D. in Genetics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (2006), Sávio Torres de Farias is currently Associate Professor III at the Federal University of Paraíba, member of the Ibero-American Academy of Evolutionary Biology, and a member of the International Committee of the Network of Researchers on the Chemical Evolution of Life (NoRCEL) - United Kingdom, as well as being visiting professor at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. He has been developing work on the origin of the biological system, with an emphasis on the biological organization of the Last Common Universal Ancestor.

Golden Ghadzirai Nyambuya


A full Professor of Fundamental Theoretical Physics at the National University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Golden is also a Visiting Professor at The Copperbelt University in Zambia where he is involved with Astronomy and Astrophysics Masters and PhD students under the Pan-African Planetary and Space Science Network (PAPSSN) Mobility Grant Scholarship Programme. As a fundamental theoretical physicist, he is working on a number of topics e.g., the search for a Universal Dirac equation, the search for the Mass of the Photon, Massive Star Formation, Gravitational Anomalies and the search for a Unified Field Theory). He is also interested in the questions of both the Origins of Life and whether or not Life exists elsewhere in the Universe apart from on Planet Earth.

Priscilla Muheki


PhD student at Mbarara Uni of Sci and Tech, Uganda.

Prospery Simpemba


Regional co-ordinator of Southern African Regional Office of Astronomy for Development and lecturer in the Physics department of the school of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia

Hitesh Changela


Hitesh is a planetary scientist specializing in planetary materials. He did his undergraduate and masters in physics at King's College London, UK and UC Berkeley, USA. He obtained his PhD in planetary materials at the University of Leicester's Space Research Centre, UK. He has held post-doctoral positions at the United States Naval Research Laboratory, the University of New Mexico, USA, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese National Space Administration, China. Hitesh is passionate about space exploration without borders and national politics, and an advocate of space related projects uniting the globe.

David Smith


Born in 1953, David trained as an organic chemist at Salford University, Manchester and also at Imperial College, London. He has spent the majority of his working life in the pharmaceutical industry as a synthetic chemist and radiochemist, retiring in 2013. Subsequently he undertakes informal adult education, presenting short courses on various topics related to the natural history of the elements: “From the Stars to your Sandwich”, including such themes as:
- Stellar nucleosynthesis, elements in the solar system and geology on earth,
- Early life and its subsequent evolution, food chemistry, microbiomes.
He has publishes four articles in collaboration with Dr Sohan Jheeta, with two more in preparation.

Mukesh Bhatt


Mukesh Chiman BHATT is a trans-disciplinary polymath and autodidact, with core qualifications and competences in physics, languages, law, computing and translation technologies and the social sciences. Currently researching in law, evolution and agency in outer space from the perspective of culture and migration during a career break enforced by disability. He presents as innovative, creative, and solution oriented. With many peer-reviewed publications, cross-disciplinary public lectures, presentations and reports, on topics ranging from culture and migration, science fiction, space and astrobiology, the mechanical properties of polymers and composite materials for the defence and aerospace industries, as well as the use of computer-aided learning and the internet in engineering education. Current interests include physics and science in general, science fiction, outer space, technology and society, world philosophies as well as exercise, dance and movement. An accredited Chartered Physicist he is a member of the UK Institute of Physics; the European Physical Society; the Association of British Science Writers; the British Interplanetary Society; an associate member of the UK National Union of Journalists; and now of the more international NoRCEL.