UCL Earth Sciences


Dr Dominic Papineau

Geochemistry, geobiology, biogeochemistry, micro-palaeontology, organic geochemistry, chemical sedimentology, sedimentary petrology, biosignatures, astrobiology, exobiology, correlative microscopy

Associate Professor in Geochemistry and Astrobiology    

Dominic Papineau




Associate Professor in Geochemistry and Astrobiology4.C4 Center for Nanotechnology

Courses Taught:

GEOL0001: Earth Materials
GEOL0014: Geoscience Report 
GEOL0059:  Origins of Life and Exobiology

Research Group(s):

Precambrian Research
The London Geochemistry and Isotope Centre (LOGIC) 

Email Address:

Telephone Number:


020 7679 3404 (33404)

Research Summary

My main research interests are aimed at understanding the origin and evolution of life during the first four billion years of Earth history in order to predict what might be found on other planets and planetary bodies with liquid water and volcanism. I am interested in knowing:

  1. how biochemistry can arise from pre-biotic geochemical evolution, 
  2. how micro-organisms form communities that affect or are affected by the biogeochemical cycles of C, N, S, and P
  3. how the atmosphere and oceans became oxygenated and led to the rise of multicellular organisms in the late Paleoproterozoic and compartmentalized early animals in the late Neoproterozoic. 

I believe that a solution to these scientific problems will help to unify Earth Sciences and give the necessary basis to explore other ancient planetary surfaces for biosignatures. The dream of finding extra-terrestrial life is a ‘raison d’être’, an outcome of the evolution of consciousness on this planet, and potentially a way to bring peace on Earth, since private wars for money become irrelevant if we all realize that we are unified as a single animal species on one of many inhabited planets.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoZS1DzXE8I&t=4s

Correlative Microscopy

These techniques include: optical microscopy, micro-Raman, Fourier Transform InfraRed micro-spectroscopy (FTIR), Elemental Analysis and Gas Bench Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (EA & GB-IRMS), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Electron Probe Micro-Analysis (EPMA), Focused Ion Beam (FIB), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM), Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS), Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy (SIMS), Nanoscale Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (NanoSIMS), Time-of-Flight Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry (ToF-SIMS), synchrotron-based Scanning Transmission X-ray Micro-spectroscopy (STXM), He-Ne microscopy, Auger Electron Spectroscopy (AES), and Atom Probe Tomography (APT). 

The integration of these techniques to analyse microscopic mineral assemblages associated with organic matter in old rocks provides complementary and partly redundant geochemical analyses of elemental, isotopic, and molecular analyses. In turn, these results yield a complete compositional picture to achieve the most solid interpretation to answer the challenging questions about the origin and early evolution of life, as well as to pave the way for the analysis of geological specimens that will returned from the Moon and Mars.

Research Projects Opportunity

To inquire about projects (B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., Postdoctoral, and Visiting Scholar), please e-mail me directly to discuss your interests. Some examples are given in the Astrobiology tab of the Centre for Planetary Sciences webpage or  London NERC DTP Doctoral Training Programme).