Cecilia B. Sanders


When I was very young, my parents wrote me a book, printed it out, and put it in a blue plastic binder that I keep on my desk to this day. It was called “Cecilia and The Bed of Bones” and concerned a little, brown girl exploring the hills of Montana for dinosaur fossils and other remains of ancient worlds. To date, I’ve yet to find any dinosaurs — but I am a PhD student studying the origins and evolution of life. I am interested in how and why evidence of life and its building blocks is preserved, and why it often isn’t. I do this by describing and quantifying the sedimentology and stratigraphy of Precambrian rocks in Eastern Brazil, Southern Namibia, and the SW United States. And, sometimes, by growing chemotrophic microorganisms under different conditions in the lab, to model ancient ecosystems and— alternately — their preservation and destruction. I focus mostly on carbonates, phosphorites, cherts, and their relationship to microfossils and microbial textures, analyzing them using IR, Visible, and X-Ray spectroscopy, optical microscopy, and mass spectrometry. When I’m not in the lab or in the field, I am designing and teaching elementary-level science curricula for the Pasadena Unified School System. Recreationally, I illustrate both science/technical diagrams and fantasy characters/landscapes. I am an avid Dungeon Master.



Current PhD Candidate in Geobiology | Caltech

MS '18 in Planetary Science | Caltech

BA '16 in Earth and Planetary Science and Astrophysics | Harvard University

Awards and Fellowships


NSF Graduate Research Fellowship | 2016-present

Award for educational outreach | Caltech GPS, 2020

Ian Campbell Award for outstanding achievement in field geology courses | Caltech GPS, 2018

Leo Goldberg Prize in Astronomy | Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, 2015


Past Research Projects, Publications

Download my full Curriculum Vitae below or visit the Research tab for more info.