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Sergio Santa Maria

Sergio R. Santa Maria

Research Scientist

Phone: (650) 604-1411
Affiliation: Space Biosciences Research Branch


  • NASA Principal Investigator, BioSentinel spaceflight mission (2019-Present)
  • NASA Co-Principal Investigator, LEIA spaceflight mission (2022-Present)
  • NASA Space Biology Principal Investigator, ORGANA: Oxidation-Reduction potential and Genetic Assessments for New mission Applications (2020-Present)
  • NASA Space Biology Principal Investigator, Acquisition of beneficial mutations through adaptive evolution under simulated microgravity (2020-Present)
  • NASA Project Scientist, BioSentinel spaceflight mission (2014-2019)


Training in Radiobiology & Particle Physics, NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York (2014)

Postdoctoral (American Cancer Society & NIH Postdoctoral Fellowships), New York University School of Medicine (2009-2013)

Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, University of Texas Medical Branch

B.Sc. in Biology, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru

Research Interests

Dr. Santa Maria’s research interests focus on investigating the response of model biological organisms to the space environment, particularly the role of different DNA repair and stress response pathways in the response to space radiation beyond low Earth orbit (beyond LEO). A second major focus is the development of novel biosensor technologies for future missions to deep space. More recently, Dr. Santa Maria’s team is studying how bioproduction of chemicals of interest is affected by the space environment and how microbes can be used to implement novel countermeasures for future manned missions.

Select Publications

  1. Rahmanian S, Slaba TC, Braby LA, Santa Maria SR, Bhattacharya S, Straume T (2023) Galactic cosmic ray environment predictons for the NASA BioSentinel mission. Life Sci Space Res 38. doi:10.1016/j.lssr.2023.05.001
  2. Santa Maria SR. Microbial Biology on CubeSats. In: Branz F et al. (Eds.) Next Generation CubeSats and SmallSats. Elsevier, 2023.
  3. Liddell LC, Gentry DM, Gilbert R, Marina D, Massaro Tieze S, Padgen MR, Akiyama K, Keenan K, Bhattacharya S, Santa Maria SR (2023) BioSentinel: Validating Sensitivity of Yeast Biosensors to Deep Space Relevant Radiation. Astrobiology 23. doi:10.1089/ast.2022.0124
  4. Santomartino R, Averesch NJH, Bhuiyan M, Cockell CS, Colangelo J, Gumulya Y, Lehner B, Lopez-Ayala I, McMahon S, Mohanty A, Santa Maria SR, Urbaniak C, Volger R, Yang J, Zea L (2023) Toward sustainable space exploration: a roadmap for harnessing the power of microorganisms. Nat Commun 14:1391. doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37070-2
  5. Ng S, Williamson C, van Zee M, Di Carlo D, Santa Maria SR (2022) Enabling Clonal Analyses of Yeast in Outer Space by Encapsulation and Desiccation in Hollow Microparticles. Life 12(8):1168. doi:10.3390/life12081168
  6. Harandi B, Ng S, Liddell LC, Gentry DM, Santa Maria SR (2022) Fluidic-based instruments for space biology research in CubeSats. Front Space Technol 3:853980. doi:10.3389/frspt.2022.853980
  7. Padgen MR, Liddell LC, Bhardwaj SR, …, Santa Maria SR (2021) BioSentinel: A Biofluidic Nanosatellite Monitoring Microbial Growth and Activity in Deep Space. Astrobiology 21. doi:10.1089/ast.2020.2305
  8. Kanapskyte A, Hawkins EM, …, Santa Maria SR (2021) Space Biology Research and Biosensor Technologies: Past, Present, and Future. Biosensors 11:1-10. doi:10.3390/bios11020038
  9. Zea L, Santa Maria SR, Ricco AJ. Cubesats for Microbiology and Astrobiology Research. In: Cappelletti, C. et al. (Eds.) CubeSat Handbook. Academic Press: London, 2020.
  10. Hawkins EM, Kanapskyte A, Santa Maria SR (2020) Developing Technologies for Biological Experiments in Deep Space. Proceedings 60. doi:10.3390/IECB2020-07085
  11. Massaro Tieze S, Liddell LC, Santa Maria SR, Bhattacharya S (2020) BioSentinel: A Biological CubeSat for Deep Space Exploration. Astrobiology 20. doi:10.1089/ast.2019.2068
  12. Santa Maria SR, Marina DB, Massaro Tieze S, et al. (2020) Long-term S. cerevisiae preservation for a deep space biosensor mission. Astrobiology 20. doi:10.1089/ast.2019.2073
  13. Ricco AJ, Santa Maria SR, Hanel RP, et al. (2020) BioSentinel: A 6U Nanosatellite for Deep-Space Biological Science. IEEE AESM 35:6-18. doi:10.1109/MAES.2019.2953760


  • 2023 NASA Ames Honor Award, BioSentinel Mission Operations Team
  • 2022 NASA Ames Director’s Management Reserve Award, BioSentinel Team
  • 2021 NASA Ames Honor Award, BioSentinel Project Team
  • NASA Space Radiation Summer School (2014), Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship (2011-2013), NYU School of Medicine
  • NYU Sackler Institute Postdoctoral Travel Grant (2010), NYU School of Medicine
  • NIH T32 Training Grant in Molecular Oncology & Immunology (2010), NYU School of Medicine
  • Biological Chemistry Student Organization Award (2007), UTMB
  • Barbara Bowman Award for Research Excellence (2006 and 2007), UTMB
  • International Student Organization Award (2007), UTMB
  • Graduate Student Organization Award (2006), UTMB
  • University Federal Credit Union Scholarship Award (2006), UTMB
  • Robert Bennett Scholarship (2004), UTMB
  • 2001 Barbara Ann Kotowski Award for Best Research Thesis Proposal, UPCH
  • 2002 Contenta Prize for Best Sciences School Student, UPCH, Lima, Peru

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