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Mónica’s research concentrates on the interactions between biosphere and geosphere with an emphasis in geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry. Her research interests are mainly focused on low temperature and environmental geochemistry with a focus on biomineralization and/or mineral-microbe interactions that play a key role in biogeochemical processes. Studies of important modern environmental systems, such as hypersaline and alkaline lagoons (Lagoa Vermelha and Brejo do Espinho, Brazil) and extreme acidic environments (Rio Tinto, Spain), have led her to evaluate the biogeochemical influences on these extreme environments. The main goals of her research are (1) the study of the physico-chemical parameters controlling the sediment production in modern Earth surface environments; (2) the simulation of those physico-chemical conditions in laboratory experiments using the microbial community associated with the production of those sediments and (3) to understand the influence of microbes on mineral precipitation in modern and ancient systems on Earth, extraterrestrial planets and extraplanetary bodies.

She was awarded a PhD in Earth Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Since then, she has continued to develop her research career holding positions at the University of Georgia (USA) and the Savannah River National Laboratory (USA) with a NASA fellowship to study the formation of carbonates (e.g., dolomite, ankerite, siderite) at low temperature and their implication for the search of Life in other planets such as Mars. Afterwards, she moved to the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), in Madrid (Spain), with a ERC fellowship to study the formation of carbonate and sulfate minerals in the extreme acidic environment of Rio Tinto and its implication for the terrestrial and extraterrestrial geological records, respectively. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the Earth Science Department at the Vrije University (VU) in Amsterdam (Netherlands). In recent years, her research has focused on the biotic and abiotic formation of sedimentary (low temperature) carbonates, phosphates, sulfates and silicates in (hyper)saline and extreme acidic environments in order to define potential biosignatures for early life on Earth and Mars.

Research interest:

• Sedimentary geochemistry of carbonates, phosphates, sulfates and silicates

• Geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry

• Biomineralization and mineral-microbe interactions

• Isotope tracers in biological and inorganic systems

• Astrobiology, Early Earth and Mars

• Nanotechnology 

Selected Publications:
- Sánchez-Román M, Puente-Sánchez F, Parro V, Amils R (2015)Nucleation of Fe-rich phosphate and carbonate on microbial cells and exopolymeric substances. Frontiers in Microbiology (Nature Publishing Group) 6, 1024.

- Sánchez-Román M, Fernández-Remolar D, Amils R; Sánchez-Navas; Schmid T; San Martin-Uriz, Rodriguez N, McKenzie JA, Vasconcelos C (2014) Microbial mediated formation of Fe-carbonate minerals under extreme acidic conditions. Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group)4: 4767.

- Puente-Sánchez F, Sánchez-Román M,Amils R, Parro V. (2014) Tessaracoccus lapiscapta sp. nov., a novel actinobacterium isolated from the deep subsurface of the Iberian Pyritic Belt (Huelva, Spain). International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 64, 3546-3552.

- Amils R; Fernández-Remolar D, Parro V, Rodríguez-Manfredi JA, Oggerin M, Sánchez-Román M, López F. et al (2014) Río Tinto: A Geochemical and Mineralogical Terrestrial Analogue of Mars. Life4, 511-534.

- Oggerin M, Tornos F, Rodríguez N, del Moral C, Sánchez-Román M and Amils R (2013) Specific jarosite  biomineralization  by  Purpureocillium  lilacinum  ,  an  acidophilic  fungi  isolated  from  Río Tinto. Environmental Microbiology15, 2228-2237.

- Amils R; Fernández-Remolar D, Parro V, Rodríguez-Manfredi JA, Timmis K, Oggerin M, Sánchez- Román M, López F. et al (2013). Iberian Pyrite Belt Subsurface Life (IPBSL), a drilling project of biohydrometallurgical interest. Advanced Materials Research 825, 15 - 18.

-Sánchez-Navas A, Martín-Algarra A, Sánchez-Román M, Jiménez-López C, Nieto F and Ruiz

Bustos A (2013) Crystal Growth of Inorganic and Biomediated Carbonates and Phosphates.

Materials Science, Advanced Topics on Crystal Growth, 67-88.

- Fernández-Remolar DC, Preston LJ, Sánchez-Román M, Izawa MRM, Huang L, Southam G,  Banerjee  NR.  et  al  (2012).  Carbonate  precipitation  under  bulk  acidic  conditions  as  a  potential biosignature  for searching life on Mars. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 351–352, 13-26.

- Krause S, Liebetrau V, Gorb S, Sánchez-Román M, McKenzie JA and Treude T (2012) Microbial nucleation of Mg-rich dolomite in exopolymeric substances under anoxic modern seawater salinity: New insight into an old enigma. Geology, 40, 587-590.

- Blanco Y, Prieto-Ballesteros O, Gómez MJ, Moreno-Paz M, García-Villadangos M, Rodríguez- Manfredi   JA,   Cruz-Gil   P,   Sánchez-Román   M,   Rivas   LA,  Parro   V.   (2012).   Prokaryotic communities  and  operating  metabolisms  in  the  surface  and  the  permafrost  of  Deception  Island (Antarctica). Environmental Microbiology14, 2495 - 2510.

- Fernández-Remolar DC, Sánchez-Román M, Hill A, Gómez-Ortiz D, Prieto Balleteros O, Romanek CS, Amils R (2011). The environment of early Mars and the missing carbonates. Meteoritics & Planetary Science46, 1447-1469.

- Sánchez-Román M, Romanek C, Fernandez Remolar D, Sanchez Navas A, McKenzie JA, Amils R, Vasconcelos C. (2011). Aerobic biomineralization of Mg-rich carbonates: Implications for natural environments. Chemical Geology 281, 143 - 150.

- Sánchez-Román M, McKenzie JA , de Luca Rebello Wagener A, Romanek CS, Sánchez-Navas A   and  Vasconcelos  C  (2011).  Experimentally  determined  biomediated  Sr partition  coefficient  for dolomite: Significance and implication for natural dolomite. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta75, 887-904.

- Parro V, de Diego-Castilla G, Moreno-Paz M, Blanco Y, Cruz-Gil P, Rodríguez-Manfredi JA, Fernández-Remolar D, Gómez F, Gómez MJ, Rivas LA, Demergasso C, Echeverría A, Urtuvia VN, Ruiz Bermejo M, García-Villadangos M, Postigo M, Sánchez-Román M, Chong-Díaz G, Gómez- Elvira  J.  (2011).  A  microbial  oasis  in  the  hypersaline  Atacama  subsurface  discovered  by  a  life detector chip: implications for the search for life on Mars. Astrobiology11, 969-996.

-Colín-García M, García-Martinez JL, Negrón-Mendoza A, Ortega Gutiérrez F, Ramos-Bernal S, Sánchez-Román M, Valdivia-Silva JE (2011). Olivine: It’s Role in Chemical Evolution and

in the Origin of Life. Horizons in Earth Science Research 5, 221-244.

- Fernández-Remolar DC, Sánchez-Román M and Amils R (2010). The case of the lacking carbonates and the emergence of Early Life on Mars. Sustainability 2, 2541-2554.

- Rivadeneyra MA, Martín-Algarra A, Sánchez-Román M, Sánchez-Navas A  and Martín-Ramos D. (2010).Amorphous Ca-phosphate precursors for Ca-carbonate biominerals mediated by Chromohalobacter marismortui. The ISME Journal (Nature Publishing Group)4, 922-932.

- Sánchez-Román M, McKenzie JA, de Luca Rebelo Wagener A, Rivadeneyra MA and Vasconcelos   C  (2009).   Presence   of   Sulfate   does   not   Inhibit   Low-Temperature   Dolomite Precipitation, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 285, 131-139.

- Romanek CS, Jiménez-López C, Rodríguez-Navarro A, Sánchez-Román M, Sahai N and Coleman   M.   (2009).   Inorganic   Synthesis   of   Fe-Ca-Mg   carbonates   at   Low   Temperatures. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73, 5361-5376.

- Sánchez-Román M, Vasconcelos C, Schmidt T, Dittrich M, McKenzie JA, Zenobi R and Rivadeneyra  MA  (2008)  Aerobic  microbial  dolomite  at  the  nanometer  scale:  Implications  for the geologic record. Geology36, 879-882.

-Sánchez-Román M, Vasconcelos C, Warthmann R, Rivadeneyra MA and McKenzie JA

(2008) Microbial Dolomite Precipitation under Aerobic Conditions: Results from Brejo do

Espinho Lagoon (Brazil) and Culture Experiments. IAS Spec Publ, No. 40, 167- 178.

- Sánchez-Román M, Rivadeneyra MA, Vasconcelos C and McKenzie JA (2007). Carbonate and phosphate            precipitation   by   halophilic   bacteria:   influence   of   Ca2+    and   Mg2+    ions,   FEMS Microbiology Ecology61, 273-284.




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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water


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