Zita Martins is an Astrobiologist, an Associate Professor at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST, Portugal), and the Co-Director of the MIT Portugal Program. She works in the field of Astrobiology and Cosmochemistry, and her research interests include the detection of bio-signatures in space missions, and the potential contribution of organic compounds present in meteorites and comets to the origin of life on Earth.
She has a 5-year undergraduate degree (Licenciatura) in Chemistry from IST (Portugal, 2002) and a PhD in Astrobiology from Leiden University (The Netherlands, 2007). She was an Invited Scientist at NASA Goddard (2005 and 2006), and an Invited Professor at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis (France) (2012). In 2009 she was awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship worth 1 Million British Pounds, and she was a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Imperial College London (UK) until end of 2017. Since January 2018 she is an Associate Professor at IST (Portugal).
Zita Martins has been actively involved in space research, including participation in several space missions. From 2007 to 2009 she worked on the Urey Mars Organic and Oxidant detector, which was previously listed to fly to Mars on the ExoMars mission. She is a Co-Investigator of two European Space Agency (ESA) space missions (OREOcube and EXOcube), which will be installed in the International Space Station. She is also a Member of the Portuguese Consortium of the ARIEL space mission from ESA, and a Member of the “Organic macromolecules” sub-team of the Japanese space mission Hayabusa2 from JAXA.
Zita Martins is a Member of an ESA Topical Team (“Future Astrobiology Experiments in Earth orbit and beyond”), a Committee member of the Astrobiology Society of Britain (ASB), the Portuguese Representative of the Executive Committee of the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA), an Expert Member of ESA Life Sciences Working Group (LSWG), and a Member of the Leonard Medal Committee of the Meteoritical Society.
She has an active involvement with public outreach activities, including more than 100 international media interviews, and public talks at museums and Science festivals (more details e https://fenix.tecnico.ulisboa.pt/homepage/ist31684). She had the honour of having her portrait sketched (special commission) for the Royal Society exhibit about successful women in science. She was selected by the BBC as an Expert Women Scientist, and as one of “100 Women in Science” by the Portuguese Agency of Science and Technology “Ciência Viva”. In 2018 she received a Barbie Award 2018 on the International Girl Child Day for being an inspiration to girls. In 2015 Zita Martins was appointed Oficial da Ordem Militar de Sant’Iago da Espada (OSE) by the President of Portugal for exceptional and outstanding merits in science.