Natasha Stephen

Happy to have survived round 2 of evictions! Thanks for the votes guys! :)

Favourite Thing: Try and get other people excited about what I do! Science is useless if it can’t be understood or stir up enthusiasm or inspiration from those outside looking in.



Imperial College London (2009 – 2014) and Royal Holloway, University of London (2004 – 2009)


PhD: Planetary Geology (Imperial College London); MSci Geosciences (Royal Holloway, University of London)

Work History:

I’ve had loads of odd jobs as well as the academic ones! Natural History Museum London, Imperial College London, Mander Portman Woodward School, Carl Zeiss Microscopy, Royal Holloway University of London, City Lit, Peppermint Bars & Events, Ben & Jerry’s UK, Odeon Cinemas…

Current Job:

Post-doctoral Research Associate


Imperial College London & The Natural History Museum, London

Me and my work

I study meteorites and rocks from Mars and compare them to satellite and rover data from the Red Planet!

A geologist by training, I now spend my time in the depths of planetary science playing with meteorites and lamenting the loss of fieldwork from my immediate career (something that I intend to rectify in the near future)! I completed my first degree in Geology at Royal Holloway, University of London and then moved sideways into Planetary Geology for my PhD studies at Imperial College London. Fortunately my PhD was partnered with the Natural History Museum in London within the Minerals and Planetary Science division, so I have had access to one of the best meteorite collections on the planet for the last few years and had a fantastic time working within both the university and museum environments.


My research has primarily focused on the study of Martian meteorites and how these can be used as a ground-truth for rover and satellite data from Mars. I have also been investigating magmatic histories for Mars by studying the petrology of the Shergottite meteorites and using a variety of different X-ray imaging and infra-red spectroscopic techniques, and aim to continue developing these themes alongside terrestrial analogues and experimental comparisons.

My Typical Day

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical day’ when you work with rocks from another planet…

What I'd do with the money

Start an outreach program to take cutting-edge science to schools outside of London where the access isn’t as good!

My Interview

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Geeky. Chatty. Curious.

Who is your favourite singer or band?

Ooh, too many to choose! I guess I quite like Kings of Leon or Mumford & Son’s at the moment

What's your favourite food?

Cheese. Or maybe cake. No, cheese…

What is the most fun thing you've done?

Visited NASA Johnson Space Centre in Texas and met astronauts!

What did you want to be after you left school?

A scientist. I never dreamed I’d be looking at planetary stuff though!

Were you ever in trouble in at school?

Not that I can remember.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Chemistry and geography.

What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?

Held a piece of Mars in one hand and The Moon in the other.

What or who inspired you to become a scientist?

My teachers at school and college who were always so enthusiastic about their subjects.

If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?

I have no idea! Maybe a baker?

If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!

1) To get to continue playing with space rocks for the rest of my career 2) To get to be an astronaut one day and go into space 3) To be able to make sure I can look after my family and friends

Tell us a joke.

There are too many bad geology jokes out there already…

Other stuff

Work photos:

I look at samples from Mars that have been returned naturally by way of meteorite! Because they’re so rare, we have to try and find as many ways to study them without damaging them as possible so this often includes using X-rays or Infra-red light. I often work at the Diamond Light Source in Oxfordshire to look ‘inside’ the rocks without actually cutting them open.


This is an image of the lab with Mars on screen!


And the rest of the long infra-red lab at Diamond:


The Diamond Light Source is a huge place, there are hundreds of scientists working there at the same time on lots of different projects! It’s a huge ring-shaped building that you can walk all the way around, but it would take you a while!


I can collect data using lots of different techniques but it almost always requires being in the lab and putting on a silly outfit for protection, like GIANT gloves when using liquid nitrogen:


And I compare this data to the data collected by satellites on Mars or the Curiosity Rover, which I have a Lego model off on my desk for company!


As a geologist, I get to go away on fieldwork occasionally to really cool places, like the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, USA…


…and get to stand up on stage and tell people all about it and Mars when I get home! Here I am on stage at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London:

myimage7 myimage8

And of course, a meteorite selfie with a “fan”!