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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 postdoctoral researcher 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 rocks in Eastern Brazil, Southern Namibia, Southwestern Mongolia, Southern Kazakhstan, and the Southwestern United States. And, sometimes, by growing chemotrophic microorganisms under different conditions in the lab, to model ancient ecosystems, 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, scanning electron microscopy, and mass spectrometry of stable isotopes. When I’m not in the lab or in the field, I am designing and teaching Earth history, astrobiology, and geoscience lessons for undergraduate and graduate-level students, consulting on science education programming, and volunteer teaching K-12 students. I am also an artist, illustrating both science/technical diagrams and fantasy characters/landscapes. I am an avid Dungeon Master, fantasy/spec fiction fan, and pie baker.



PhD '22 in Geobiology | Caltech

MS '18 in Planetary Science | Caltech

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

Awards and Fellowships

Deep Time Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellowship | Smithsonian NMNH, 2024-present

Morton K. Blaustein Postdoctoral Fellowship | Johns Hopkins EPS, 2022-2024

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship | 2016-2022

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.

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