Sciences and Exploration Directorate

Christopher K Materese

(Research AST, Planetary Studies)


Org Code: 691

Mail Code: 691.1
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Employer: NASA


Research Scientist

NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center - Greenbelt, MD

July 2018 - Present

Research Scientist

BAER Institute/NASA Ames Research Center - Moffett Field, CA

June 2015 - July 2018

NASA Postdoctoral Fellow

Oak Ridge Associated Universities/NASA Ames Research Center - Moffett Field, CA

June 2012 - May 2015

Research Associate

SETI Institute/NASA Ames Research Center - Moffett Field, CA

June 2010 - May 2012

Graduate Student Researcher

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Chapel Hill, NC

June 2005 - May 2010


2010 - Ph.D. (Physical Chemistry) The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Dissertation "Using atomistic simulations to uncover microscopic details of nucleosomal electrostatics, energy landscapes of proteins and photovoltaic polymer dynamics."

2005 - B.S. (Chemistry) The Pennsylvania State University

Professional Service

Manuscript reviewer for professional journals including the Astrophysical JournalAstronomy & AstrophysicsAccounts of Chemical Research, ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, Nature Communications, Science Advances, and Astrobiology.

Regular proposal reviewer for funding programs at NASA


Quantifying the Radiolytic Stability of Aromatic Nitrogen Heterocycles 

Astrophysics Research and Analysis 2021 - NASA - Awarded: 2022-05-14

Assessing Parent Body Processing of Amino Acids from Ice Radiation Experiments 

Emerging Worlds 2019 - NASA - Awarded: 2019-11-04

Rates of Radiation Induced Deuterium/Hydrogen Exchange in Organic Molecules Embedded in Water Ice: Evaluating the Importance of Ice Radiation Chemistry in Observed Isotopic Ratios. 

Solar System Workings 2018 - NASA - Awarded: 2019-09-27

Talks, Presentations and Posters


Formation and destruction of nucleobases in ices

July 2020

American Vacuum Society Seminar Series hosted by the University of Central Florida (oral presentation)

Could polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with excess peripheral H atoms (Hn-PAHs) be responsible for anomalous 3.4 micron emission bands in protoplanetary nebulae?


SOFIA Community tele-talk series (oral presentation)


The Radiolytic Stability of Thymine in Water Ice

November 2020

Division for Planetary Science (2020) virtual conference (e-poster)

The Stability of Nucleobases Against Radiolytic Destruction in Water Ice

July 2019

Astrobiology Science Conference, Seattle, Wa. (poster)

Laboratory Studies of the Radiolytic Destruction of Nucleobases in Icy Environments

May 2019

IAU 350, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK (poster)



Qasim, D., H. L. McLain, J. C. Aponte, et al. D. P. Glavin, J. P. Dworkin, and C. K. Materese. 2023. Meteorite Parent Body Aqueous Alteration Simulations of Interstellar Residue Analogs ACS Earth and Space Chemistry 7 (1): 156-167 [10.1021/acsearthspacechem.2c00274]

Materese, C. K. 2022. Radiation-induced D-to-H Exchange in Ices Containing Ethane or Benzene: Reactions and Rate Constants The Astrophysical Journal 941 (1): 94 [10.3847/1538-4357/ac9d3a]

Qasim, D., R. L. Hudson, and C. K. Materese. 2022. Radiation-induced D/H Exchange Rate Constants in Aliphatics Embedded in Water Ice The Astrophysical Journal 929 (2): 7 [10.3847/1538-4357/ac602b]

Nuevo, M., E. Sciamma-O’Brien, S. A. Sandford, et al. F. Salama, C. K. Materese, and A. D. Kilcoyne. 2022. The Titan Haze Simulation (THS) experiment on COSmIC. Part III. XANES study of laboratory analogs of Titan tholins Icarus 376 114841 [10.1016/j.icarus.2021.114841]

Materese, C. K., P. A. Gerakines, and R. L. Hudson. 2021. Laboratory Studies of Astronomical Ices: Reaction Chemistry and Spectroscopy Accounts of Chemical Research 54 (2): 280-290 [10.1021/acs.accounts.0c00637]

Materese, C. K., M. Nuevo, S. A. Sandford, P. P. Bera, and T. J. Lee. 2020. The Production and Potential Detection of Hexamethylenetetramine-Methanol in Space Astrobiology 20 (5): 601-616 [10.1089/ast.2019.2147]

Materese, C. K., P. A. Gerakines, and R. L. Hudson. 2020. The Radiation Stability of Thymine in Solid H2O Astrobiology 20 (10): 956-963 [10.1089/ast.2019.2199]

Sandford, S. A., E. Bierhaus, P. Antreasian, et al. J. Leonard, C. K. Materese, C. W. May, J. T. Songer, J. P. Dworkin, D. S. Lauretta, and B. Rizk. 2019. Outgassing from the OSIRIS-REx Sample Return Capsule: Characterization and Mitigation Acta Astronautica 166 391-399 [10.1016/j.actaastro.2019.07.043]

Cruikshank, D., C. Materese, Y. Pendleton, et al. P. Boston, W. Grundy, B. Schmitt, C. Lisse, K. Runyon, J. Keane, R. Beyer, M. Summers, F. Scipioni, S. Stern, C. Dalle Ore, C. Olkin, L. Young, K. Ennico, H. Weaver, and V. Bray. 2019. Prebiotic Chemistry of Pluto Astrobiology 19 (7): 831-848 [10.1089/ast.2018.1927]

Materese, C. K., M. Nuevo, B. L. McDowell, C. E. Buffo, and S. A. Sandford. 2018. The Photochemistry of Purine in Ice Analogs Relevant to Dense Interstellar Clouds The Astrophysical Journal 864 (1): 44 [10.3847/1538-4357/aad328]

Materese, C. K., J. D. Bregman, and S. A. Sandford. 2017. The Detection of 6.9 μm Emission Features in the Infrared Spectra of IRAS 04296+3429, IRAS 05341+0852, and IRAS 22272+5435: Evidence for the Presence of Hn-PAHs in Post-AGB Stars The Astrophysical Journal 850 (2): 165 [10.3847/1538-4357/aa960d]

Materese, C. K., M. Nuevo, and S. A. Sandford. 2017. The Formation of Nucleobases from the Ultraviolet Photoirradiation of Purine in Simple Astrophysical Ice Analogues Astrobiology 17 (8): 761-770 [10.1089/ast.2016.1613]

Bera, P. P., M. Nuevo, C. K. Materese, S. A. Sandford, and T. J. Lee. 2016. Mechanisms for the formation of thymine under astrophysical conditions and implications for the origin of life The Journal of Chemical Physics 144 (14): 144308 [10.1063/1.4945745]

Materese, C. K., D. P. Cruikshank, S. A. Sandford, H. Imanaka, and M. Nuevo. 2015. ICE CHEMISTRY ON OUTER SOLAR SYSTEM BODIES: ELECTRON RADIOLYSIS OF N2-, CH4-, AND CO-CONTAINING ICES The Astrophysical Journal 812 (2): 150 [10.1088/0004-637x/812/2/150]

Materese, C. K., M. Nuevo, and S. A. Sandford. 2015. N- ANDO-HETEROCYCLES PRODUCED FROM THE IRRADIATION OF BENZENE AND NAPHTHALENE IN H2O/NH3-CONTAINING ICES The Astrophysical Journal 800 (2): 116 [10.1088/0004-637x/800/2/116]

Nuevo, M., C. K. Materese, and S. A. Sandford. 2014. THE PHOTOCHEMISTRY OF PYRIMIDINE IN REALISTIC ASTROPHYSICAL ICES AND THE PRODUCTION OF NUCLEOBASES The Astrophysical Journal 793 (2): 125 [10.1088/0004-637x/793/2/125]

Materese, C. K., D. P. Cruikshank, S. A. Sandford, et al. H. Imanaka, M. Nuevo, and D. W. White. 2014. ICE CHEMISTRY ON OUTER SOLAR SYSTEM BODIES: CARBOXYLIC ACIDS, NITRILES, AND UREA DETECTED IN REFRACTORY RESIDUES PRODUCED FROM THE UV PHOTOLYSIS OF N2:CH4:CO-CONTAINING ICES The Astrophysical Journal 788 (2): 111 [10.1088/0004-637x/788/2/111]

Sandford, S. A., P. P. Bera, T. J. Lee, C. K. Materese, and M. Nuevo. 2014. Photosynthesis and Photo-Stability of Nucleic Acids in Prebiotic Extraterrestrial Environments Topics in Current Chemistry 123-164 [10.1007/128_2013_499]

Materese, C. K., M. Nuevo, P. P. Bera, T. J. Lee, and S. A. Sandford. 2013. Thymine and Other Prebiotic Molecules Produced from the Ultraviolet Photo-Irradiation of Pyrimidine in Simple Astrophysical Ice Analogs Astrobiology 13 (10): 948-962 [10.1089/ast.2013.1044]

Sandford, S. A., M. P. Bernstein, and C. K. Materese. 2013. THE INFRARED SPECTRA OF POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC HYDROCARBONS WITH EXCESS PERIPHERAL H ATOMS (Hn-PAHs) AND THEIR RELATION TO THE 3.4 AND 6.9 μm PAH EMISSION FEATURES The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 205 (1): 8 [10.1088/0067-0049/205/1/8]

Wilger, D. J., S. E. Bettis, C. K. Materese, et al. M. Minakova, G. A. Papoian, J. M. Papanikolas, and M. L. Waters. 2012. Tunable Energy Transfer Rates via Control of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Structure of a Coiled Coil Peptide Scaffold Inorganic Chemistry 51 (21): 11324-11338 [10.1021/ic300669t]

Savelyev, A., C. K. Materese, and G. A. Papoian. 2011. Is DNA’s Rigidity Dominated by Electrostatic or Nonelectrostatic Interactions? J. Am. Chem. Soc. 133 (48): 19290-19293 [10.1021/ja207984z]

Materese, C. K., A. Savelyev, and G. A. Papoian. 2009. Counterion Atmosphere and Hydration Patterns near a Nucleosome Core Particle Journal of the American Chemical Society 131 (41): 15005-15013 [10.1021/ja905376q]

Zhuravlev, P. I., C. K. Materese, and G. A. Papoian. 2009. Deconstructing the Native State: Energy Landscapes, Function, and Dynamics of Globular Proteins The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 113 (26): 8800-8812 [10.1021/jp810659u]

Materese, C. K., C. C. Goldmon, and G. A. Papoian. 2008. Hierarchical organization of eglin c native state dynamics is shaped by competing direct and water-mediated interactions Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (31): 10659-10664 [10.1073/pnas.0801850105]

Luellen, B. A., M. E. Szapacs, C. K. Materese, and A. M. Andrews. 2006. The neurotoxin 2′-NH2-MPTP degenerates serotonin axons and evokes increases in hippocampal BDNF Neuropharmacology 50 (3): 297-308 [10.1016/j.neuropharm.2005.09.006]