Samantha Gilbert (she/her/hers)

Samantha Gilbert (she/her/hers)

PhD student in Astronomy/Astrobiology

University of Washington

Samantha Gilbert

I am a PhD student in Astronomy and Astrobiology at the University of Washington. As a member of the Virtual Planetary Laboratory, I am exploring how we will interpret spectral observations of terrestrial exoplanets with future instruments. In preparation for upcoming transmission or direct imaging missions, I am particularly interested in developing robust frameworks for interpreting the detection of biosignature gases.

In my spare time, I enjoy combing Seattle for tostones and maduros with my partner Joe and our dog Toby.


  • Dual Title PhD in Astronomy & Astrobiology

    University of Washington

  • BA in Physics with a Specialization in Astrophysics, 2017

    University of Chicago

Field Work

Trawling the Puget Sound to Trace the Evolutionary History of Invertebrate Organisms

As part of the annual Astrobiology workshop at the University of Washington, my fellow grad students and I journeyed to Friday Harbor Labs to board the Rachel Carson, a UW oceanographic research vessel in fall 2019. While on-board, we supervised as the crew trawled the Puget Sound for various invertebrates. We then dissected our invertebrates in the laboratory to discuss the growing complexity demonstratedby lifeforms like bivalves, prawns, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins.

Measuring Reflectivity of Microbial Mats in Yellowstone National Park

Under the supervision of Dr. Niki Parenteau (NASA Ames) and with federal permits, I used a mobile spectrometer to measure the reflectivity of different microbial mats in the acidic environments of the Yellowstone hot springs in summer 2019. Dr. Parenteau specializes in studying the unique spectral fingerprints of these extremo-tolerant organisms, which we believe may have carpeted the early Archean Earth in a near-global layer. This will work will illuminate how we might remotely detect similar lifeforms on planets outside our solar system.


Developing a hierarchy of models for terrestrial habitability studies

We need a hierarchy of models to predict and characterize terrestrial exoplanet atmospheres, as 1D and 3D models have different …

Leaving the Competition in the Dust: A CMB Case Study

Using Brian Keating’s 2018 book Losing the Nobel Prize as a primary text, I analyzed the infamous story of the BICEP science team in their search for proof of the universe’s anistropy. While the scientific community deemed their efforts a great failure, I found an important human story underlying the team’s trials: we do our best work when we truly work together towards a common goal. Conversely, when we operate in an environment built on the fear of failure and its consequences, we suffer academically and more importantly, we suffer personally.