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Dr. Alexandra Pontefract

Staff Scientist

Dr. Alexandra Pontefract is a Senior Staff Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. She is a geomicrobiologist interested in habitat generation through impact bombardment, life in cold and salty environments, as well as life-detection techniques and instrumentation. Dr. Pontefract has extensive Arctic field experience, and has served as science and instrument lead on several analog mission deployments. Currently she is working on biosignature detection in a range of hypersaline environments, specifically focusing on the limits of life as they pertain to water activity and chaotropicity, and is also pursuing research on the habitability of impact shocked basalts.


  • H.B.Sc. Biology (Minor - Earth Sciences), McMaster University, 2006

  • M.Sc. Biology, McMaster University, 2008

  • Ph.D. Geology (Planetary Science), Western University, 2014


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Western University, 2014-2015

  • Postdoctoral Associate, MIT, 2016-2018

  • Research Scientist, MIT, 2018-2019

  • Assistant Research Professor, Georgetown University, 2019-2021

  • Professional Staff, JHU-APL, 2022 - Current.

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