Sciences and Exploration Directorate

James M T Lewis

(Assistant Research Scientist)

James M T Lewis's Contact Card & Information.
Phone: 301.286.0276
Org Code: 699
Mail Code 699
Greenbelt, MD 20771

Brief Bio

James Lewis is an organic geochemist with an interest in organic-mineral interactions, the operation of flight instruments, and the interpretation of flight data. His research focuses on how organic matter is altered when exposed to environmental conditions relevant to Mars and ocean worlds. He specialises in evolved gas analysis (EGA) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), and has experience in X-ray diffraction (XRD), infrared spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Lewis completed a Masters in Science degree and a Ph.D. at Imperial College London (MSci., 2011; Ph.D., 2016). He was supervised by Professor Mark Sephton and examined the impacts of iron sulfates on pyrolysis experiments looking for organic matter on Mars. In 2016, he joined the Planetary Environments Laboratory (code 699) at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow working with the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite team. In 2022, Lewis was selected to be a Participating Scientist in the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. As part of these duties, he acts as a Payload Downlink Lead (PDL) for SAM and participates in working groups to plan MSL science activities. His current laboratory research projects are focused on the decomposition of organic matter by aqueous alteration and radiation.

Selected Publications


2022. "Constraining Alteration Processes Along the Siccar Point Group Unconformity, Gale Crater, Mars: Results from the Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument." Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets 127 (11): e2022JE007387 [10.1029/2022JE007387] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Evolved gas analyses of sedimentary rocks from the Glen Torridon Clay-Bearing Unit, Gale crater, Mars: Results from the Mars Science Laboratory Sample Analysis at Mars Instrument Suite." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 127 (9): e2022JE007179 [10.1029/2022JE007179] [Journal Article/Letter]

2022. "Oxidized and reduced sulfur observed by the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on the Curiosity rover within the Glen Torridon region at Gale crater, Mars." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets e2021JE007084 [Full Text] [10.1029/2021JE007084] [Journal Article/Letter]

2021. "Pyrolysis of Oxalate, Acetate, and Perchlorate Mixtures and the Implications for Organic Salts on Mars." Journal of Geophysical Research - Planets [Full Text] [10.1029/2020JE006803] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Benzoic Acid as the Preferred Precursor for the Chlorobenzene Detected on Mars: Insights from the Unique Cumberland Analog Investigation." The Planetary Science Journal 1 (2): 41 [10.3847/psj/aba690] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Detection of reduced sulfur on Vera Rubin ridge by quadratic discriminant analysis of volatiles observed during evolved gas analysis." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 125 (8): e2019JE006304 [Full Text] [10.1029/2019JE006304] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Constraints on the Mineralogy and Geochemistry of the Vera Rubin ridge, Gale Crater, Mars, from Mars Science Laboratory Sample Analysis at Mars Evolved Gas Analyses." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets [Full Text] [10.1029/2019JE006309] [Journal Article/Letter]

2020. "Indigenous and exogenous organics and surface-atmosphere cycling inferred from carbon and oxygen isotopes at Gale crater." Nature Astronomy [Full Text] [10.1038/s41550-019-0990-x] [Journal Article/Letter]

2019. "Recovery of Fatty Acids from Mineralogic Mars Analogs by TMAH Thermochemolysis for the Sample Analysis at Mars Wet Chemistry Experiment on the Curiosity Rover." Astrobiology 19 (4): [Full Text] [10.1089/ast.2018.1819] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "Alluvial fan surface ages recorded by Landsat-8 imagery in Owens Valley, California." Remote Sensing of Environment 216 401-414 [10.1016/j.rse.2018.07.013] [Journal Article/Letter]

2018. "The Search for Hesperian Organic Matter on Mars: Pyrolysis Studies of Sediments Rich in Sulfur and Iron." Astrobiology 18 (4): 454-464 [10.1089/ast.2017.1717] [Journal Article/Letter]

Selected Public Outreach

Dark Skies Festival

March 2020 - March 2020

Dr. Lewis attended the Dark Skies Festival in Death Valley and performed outreach for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite, Mars Science Laboratory, and Mars exploration in general. His activities included assisting in leading a middle school field trip to Mars Hill, staffing a SAM outreach table at the visitor center, conducting a Mars lander activity for families, and taking part in a Q&A session at a Park Ranger astronomy night. He also supported two field trips to Confidence Hills with park visitors, where he discussed the similarities between Death Valley and Mars and our past, present, and future missions to the planet.

Apollo 50th at the National Mall

August 2019 - August 2019

Dr. Lewis volunteered at the Moon to Mars tent for the Apollo 50th Anniversary Festival on the National Mall. He discussed the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on board Curiosity rover and the MOMA instrument suite on board the ExoMars rover. While working with fellow volunteer Scott Wieman he was told that his section was the highlight of the festival by two attendees.