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Dr Martin Suttle


Profile summary

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Professional biography

2021 - Lecturer in Planetary Sciences Aqueous alteration on asteroids and comets. School of Physical Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.
2019-2021 Postdoctoral ResearcherThe Geological History of Water-rich Asteroids. The Planetary Materials Group, The Natural History Museum London, UK.
2018-2019 Postdoctoral Research AssociateThe Cosmochemical Study of Giant Antarctic Micrometeorites. Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa, Italy.
2014-2018 PhD Planetary SciencesThe Parent Bodies of Fine-grained Micrometeorites: A Petrologic & Spectroscopic Perspective. Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, UK.
2010-2014 MSci degree in Geology. Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London, UK.

Research interests

Aqueous alteration in primitive extraterrestrial materials: I study the geochemical and isotopic properties of hydrated carbonaceous chondrites (CO, CM, CY, CI and C-ungrouped meteorites) and fine-grained micrometeorites. They are samples of water-rich asteroids and their study allows us to explore the interaction between rock and water across a range of geochemical environments. By investigating primitive hydrated bodies we seek to understand fundamental early geological processes that operated on minor bodies during the age of accretion and planet-building, approximately 4.5 billion years ago. This topic lies at the forefront of modern research interests, directly informing current and upcoming space missions (including OSIRIS-REx, Hayabusa2, DAWN, ROSETTA, Comet interceptor and DESTINY+).

Developing fossilized micrometeorites as a new atmosphere and climate proxy: Alongside colleagues at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College London we are pioneering the use of fossil micrometeorites as a new proxy to infer changes in the composition of Earth’s atmosphere over geological time. Cosmic dust grains fall to Earth continuously. During their passage through the atmosphere they are flash heated, melted and oxidized. A small fraction survive to the surface and eventually become preserved in sedimentary rocks, forming “fossil micrometeorites”. Analysis of these ancient extraterrestrial materials provides insights into the compositional diversity of the asteroid belt whilst also providing a means of indirectly inferring the composition of Earth’s upper atmosphere in the past. In particular micrometeorites could be used as a tool to reconstruct former CO2 and O2 levels at key periods in Earth’s history.  

The geological diversity of comets: Comets are balls of rock and ice that formed in the outer regions of the early solar system. Their primitive compositions preserve insights into the reservoirs from which matter condensed, the accretion behaviour of solids at large heliocentric distances and the origin of water and volatiles. Today, comets originate from two source regions – an inner ring extending from the orbit of Neptune out to ~1000 astronomical units (AU), referred to as the Kuiper Belt and an outer spherical zone (>10,000 AU from the Sun), referred to as the Oort Cloud. Despite decades of research we still know little about the composition and internal structure of comets nor do we know how much variation exists among comet populations. Are there different compositional types of comets and if so, what can these types tell us about the structure of the protoplanetary disk? I aim to tackle this question by combining telescopic observations of distant comets with microanalysis of rare cometary dust grains.

My research output includes 26 publications in peer-reviewed journals (14 first-authored) and 36 conference contributions as well as a range of online and print science communication articles. A full list of my journal publications can be found on Google scholar.

I am a co-convener for the upcoming Royal Astronomical Society's 2022 specialist meeting on cosmic dust research to be held online on 11/02/2022.

Teaching interests

I am a module team member on the following courses:
S283: Planetary science and the search for life
S350: Evaluating contemporary science
SXPS288: Remote experiments in physics and space

I am also studying as an OU student for a Post Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP).

Impact and engagement

My research has been featured in the New Scientist, Astronomy magazine, BBC radio Kent, ASU News and several other online articles. I have also written science communication articles for The Conversation, Evidently Scientifical (I, II & III), Diamond LightsourceImperial College London and Science Trends. Today I am involved in the use of micrometeorites, collected from urban environments (e.g. rooftops, gutters, road sweepings etc.) as an engagement resource. The ability to rapidly recover and confidently identify cosmic dust from easily accessible sites opens a new avenue of planetary science to the public. Urban micrometeorites have huge potential for citizen science and educational projects as demonstrated by the work of Jon Larsen (Project Stardust), Scott Peterson, Dr Thilo Hasse and Dr Sarah Roberts. In collaboration with micrometeorite hunters we aim to develop this topic as an inspiring access tool in STEM subjects.

External collaborations

Prof. Sara Russell – The Natural History Museum, London.
Dr. Ashley King – The Natural History Museum, London.
Prof. Luigi Folco – Università di Pisa, Italy.
Fabrizio Campanale – Università di Pisa, Italy.
Jacopo Nava – Università di Padova.
Dr. Matt Genge – Imperial College London.
Dr. Jenny Feige – Technische Universität Berlin, Germany.
Prof. Maitrayee Bose – Arizona State University, USA.
Dr. Matthias van Ginneken – University of Kent, UK.
Dr. Tobias Salge – The Natural History Museum, London.
Dr. Zélia Dionnet – CNES chez Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale, France.
Dr. Ansgar Greshake – Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany.
Dr. Lutz Hecht – Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany.
Dr. Thilo Hasse – Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany.
Scott Peterson – Minnesota, USA (
Jon Larsen – Project Stardust, Norway.
Flore van Maldeghem – Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.