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Exciting developments in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

The Department is developing the scope of its research and teaching in the fields of planetary science and astrobiology with the help of two newly appointed lecturers.

Profile photos of Dr Lauren Mc Kewon and Dr Andrew Rushby
Dr Lauren Mc Keown and Dr Andrew Rushby

The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences is expanding its research and teaching in the fields of planetary science and astrobiology. In October 2022 it will launch a new undergraduate degree in Planetary Science, Space Exploration and Astrobiology and from the following year it will offer a new MSc in Astrobiology. These activities will be assisted by two new members of staff: Dr Lauren Mc Keown was appointed as a new Lecturer in Planetary Surfaces in August and Dr Andrew Rushby will join the Department as a Lecturer in Astrobiology from 1 November.

Dr Mc Keown's research focuses on icy planetary surface processes, in particular those that modify the surface of Mars in the present day. Specifically, she enjoys simulating active geomorphic processes under Mars conditions in the laboratory and linking lab-derived measurements with high resolution remote-sensing observations. She joins the Department following postdoctoral research positions at The Open University and The Natural History Museum and her research and teaching is informed by transdisciplinary research experience at NASA Ames Research Center and Trinity College Dublin. Dr Mc Keown has been teaching part-time at Birkbeck since January 2021 and she looks forward to contributing to teaching and developing the new degree courses in a more permanent capacity.

Dr Rushby joins the Department after completing postdoctoral positions at the University of California, Irvine, and NASA Ames Research Center. His research focuses on the biogeochemical factors that affect the habitability of small, rocky planets. He has published work on the operation of the long-term carbon cycle on Earth and beyond, methods for detecting biosignatures from newly discovered exoplanets, as well as the climate and atmospheric structure of entirely land-covered planets orbiting red dwarf stars. He will be contributing to teaching and developing new astrobiology modules as part of the upcoming BSc Planetary Science, Space Exploration and Astrobiology and MSc Astrobiology courses.

These new appointments to the Department will build on our established position in delivering courses in Earth and planetary science, as well as enhancing our research base within planetary science and astrobiology. We see this as an exciting time, with a move further into a field never before fully developed at Birkbeck and giving students the opportunity to study planetary science at Master's, as well as undergraduate, level in the dynamic and flexible teaching environment that Birkbeck offers.

Further Information

Find out what it's like to study in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

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