Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Felisa Wolfe-Simon

Felisa Wolfe-Simon, 33, of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, is the lead author of a landmark 2010 paper about a new species of bacterium in California's arsenic-rich Mono Lake, a place no ordinary microbe has any business living. But her microbes are not ordinary — replacing the phosphorus that's usually used as a building block of proteins with arsenic. That's the kind of paradigm-shifting biology scientists might look for in searching for life on other worlds. Some biologists dismiss the findings, claiming the research methods were flawed. But Wolfe-Simon stands by her work — and she too has shifted a paradigm. Even her detractors newly accept that the search for cosmic life need no longer include the "as we know it" qualifier.