Zita Carla Torrão Pinto Martins (born 1979),[1][4] OSE, is a Portuguese astrobiologist, and an Associate Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico.[5] She was a Royal Society University Research Fellow (URF)[2] at Imperial College London.[6] Her research explores how life may have begun on Earth by looking for organic compounds in meteorite samples.[7][8][9][10]

Zita Carla Torrão Pinto Martins
Born (1979-03-19) March 19, 1979 (age 40)[1]
Alma mater
Known forAstrobiology, Meteorites and extraterrestrial organic matter, science communication
Scientific career
ThesisChemical analysis of organic molecules in carbonaceous meteorites (2007)
Doctoral advisorPascale Ehrenfreund

Early life and educationEdit

As a child, Zita Martins studied classical ballet from the age of four and was encouraged by her teacher to progress to the National Ballet School in Portugal, which would have put her on track to become a professional dancer.[11] Instead, at the age of 15, she decided she wanted to pursue science, gave up ballet and taught herself Russian. At secondary school, she filled in a careers test, which advised her strengths were in science and art, which Zita Martins says was not very helpful.[citation needed]

As an undergraduate studying chemistry, at Instituto Superior Técnico, Martins was unsure how to direct her education towards a career in space science. She says, "I emailed NASA and asked them what I should do. They told me to do an internship in the Netherlands. I did an internship there, and did a really cool project analysing samples from space (i.e. meteorites). I thought: ‘this is cool; I want to do this for the rest of my life’.[citation needed]

She was awarded a PhD in 2007 for Chemical analysis of organic molecules in carbonaceous meteorites from Leiden University supervised by Pascale Ehrenfreund.[12][1] While completing her PhD, she gave a talk which was led to an invitation to be an Invited Scientist at NASA.[8]

Research and careerEdit

In 2013, Zita Martins, working with colleagues from the University of Kent shot steel projectiles at ice samples, which simulated the composition of comets to find out if their impact is responsible for the production of complex organic molecules. The experiment found that the impact-shock of a comet produces a number of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. This has implications for the origin of life on Earth but also potentially in the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.[13]

Zita Martins is Co-Investigator of two European Space Agency missions, OREOcube and EXOcube, which will be installed on the International Space Station in the future.

Committed to inspiring the next generation of young people to take an interest in science, Zita Martins has an active involvement with the international media.[5] She is a BBC Expert Women Scientist.[14]

Awards and honoursEdit


Academic AwardsEdit


  1. ^ a b c Torrao Pinto Martins, Zita Carla (2007). Chemical analysis of organic molecules in carbonaceous meteorites. leidenuniv.nl (PhD thesis). Leiden University. hdl:1887/9450. OCLC 883262360.  
  2. ^ a b c Anon (2009). "Dr Zita Martins: Research Fellow". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2017-03-01.
  3. ^ Zita Martins publications indexed by Google Scholar  
  4. ^ a b "ENTIDADES NACIONAIS AGRACIADAS COM ORDENS PORTUGUESAS - Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas". www.ordens.presidencia.pt. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  5. ^ a b "Zita Martins".
  6. ^ "Zita Martins, astrobiologist and Royal Society research fellow". The Valentina Project. 2014-07-02. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
  7. ^ Women's Business. "Meteoric career rise: Meet the female space scientist who's trying to discover the origin of life". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-08-10.
  8. ^ a b "Interview with Zita Martins". The Scientific 23. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  9. ^ Martins, Zita; Botta, Oliver; Fogel, Marilyn L.; Sephton, Mark A.; Glavin, Daniel P.; Watson, Jonathan S.; Dworkin, Jason P.; Schwartz, Alan W.; Ehrenfreund, Pascale (2008). "Extraterrestrial nucleobases in the Murchison meteorite". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 270 (1–2): 130–136. arXiv:0806.2286. Bibcode:2008E&PSL.270..130M. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2008.03.026. ISSN 0012-821X.
  10. ^ Glavin, Daniel P.; Dworkin, Jason P.; Aubrey, Andrew; Botta, Oliver; Doty, James H.; Martins, Zita; Bada, Jeffrey L. (2006). "Amino acid analyses of Antarctic CM2 meteorites using liquid chromatography-time of flight-mass spectrometry". Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 41 (6): 889–902. Bibcode:2006M&PS...41..889G. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2006.tb00493.x. ISSN 1086-9379.
  11. ^ Martins, Zita. "Early Life". www.space-awareness.org. Retrieved 2018-01-17.
  12. ^ Martins, Z.; Alexander, C. M. O'D.; Orzechowska, G. E.; Fogel, M. L.; Ehrenfreund, P. (2007). "Indigenous amino acids in primitive CR meteorites". Meteoritics & Planetary Science. 42 (12): 2125–2136. arXiv:0803.0743. Bibcode:2007M&PS...42.2125M. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2007.tb01013.x. ISSN 1086-9379.
  13. ^ Martins, Zita; Price, Mark C.; Goldman, Nir; Sephton, Mark A.; Burchell, Mark J. (2013-12-01). "Shock synthesis of amino acids from impacting cometary and icy planet surface analogues". Nature Geoscience. 6 (12): 1045–1049. Bibcode:2013NatGe...6.1045M. doi:10.1038/ngeo1930. ISSN 1752-0894. (subscription required)
  14. ^ Barnett, Emma (2013-03-19). "BBC launches expert women database and YouTube channel". Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
  15. ^ Presidência da República Portuguesa. "Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas". Presidência da República Portuguesa. Retrieved 2015-06-10.
  16. ^ Discovering Astrobiology with Dr Zita Martins on YouTube