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Grace Richards

Profile summary

Web links

Professional biography

2020 - Present: The Open University -  School of Physical Sciences PhD student 

2014 - 2019: University of Edinburgh - Integrated Masters of Physics (MPhys)

I am a third year AstrobiologyOU PhD student and the title of my project is “The feasibility of in situ VOC analysis on icy moons.” My project focuses on the icy surface of Enceladus, and whether or not it is possible to differentiate between surface processes by analysing the ice. I have built a cryogenic vacuum system to replicate the Enceladus surface environment and grow ice analogues. I am also working with the Light Gas Gun to simulate impacts from grains in Saturn's E-ring on the ice analogues. 

Research interests

PhD project: The feasibility of in situ VOC anaylsis on icy moons 

Main interests:

  • Habitability of icy moons
  • Space Instrumentation 
  • Identification and detection of biomarkers
  • Space weathering


Teaching interests

Night Duty Astronomer: Teaching Undergraduate students how to remotely access the PIRATE/COAST telescopes in Tenerife (Oct - Nov 2021)

Maths TMA Marker: Marking scripts for S111 maths course (Oct 2020 - May 2021)


Impact and engagement

I am currently working with AstrobiologyOU on creating educational videos about astrobiology and planetary science for schools and science festivals.

My video about icy moons which was featured in the Glasgow Science Festival 2022 can be found here:

A trailer for the "The Search for Water on Mars" short course on OpenLearn can be found here:

I was a mentor for The Girls' Network (2020-2022), where I worked with a GCSE student to help her acheive personal and academic goals. I led a work experience project for her which involved her interviewing researchers across the School of Physics and AstrobiologyOU. She wrote a blog post about this experience and we created several videos showcasing researchers in the university together. This is now featured on OpenLearn and can be found here:


Development of Enceladus ice analogues for in situ analysis (2021)
Richards, Grace; Pearson, Victoria; Patel, Manish; Morgan, Geraint and Sheridan, Simon
In : European Planetary Science Congress 2021 (13-24 Sep 2021, Online)

VOC analysis: Unlocking the secrets of Enceladus' surface (2020-09-21)
Richards, Grace
Europlanet, Youtube.

Looking for life: Unlocking the secrets of Enceladus' surface (2020)
Richards, Grace
Postgraduate Research Poster Competition, The Open University