A presentation on how we are living in a new era of innovation in space exploration, and how the possibility of contributing to the discovery of evidence of extra–‐terrestrial life is what Adriana Marais finds most fascinating about the prospect of being amongst the first Earthlings to move to Mars.

Dr Adriana Marais went to school in Pietermaritzburg, and studied theoretical physics and philosophy at the University of Cape Town. She completed her MSc summa cum laude in quantum cryptography at the University of KwaZulu–‐Natal (UKZN), and was awarded her PhD in quantum biology at the same institute in 2015. She is a member of the Quantum Research Group established by Prof. Francesco Petruccione at UKZN, and plans to continue doing research in quantum biology, specifically studying quantum effects in photosynthesis as well as the origins of prebiotic molecules and life itself.

Adriana has been recognised by the Mail and Guardian as one of 200 Young South African achievers (2014), she was one of 15 recipients worldwide of a L’Oreal–‐UNESCO International Rising Talent Grant for Women in Science (2015) and she is the 2016 Royal Society of South Africa Meiring Naude Medal awardee for a young researcher. This year she attended the prestigious 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting as one of 400 most qualified young physicists selected worldwide, and will attend the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico this month, to present her research on quantum astrobiology, and hear Elon Musk’s keynote entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species”.

Since childhood she has dreamed of living on another planet, and is currently one of the 100 Mars One Project astronaut candidates in the running to move to the red planet in 2026. She hopes one day to continue her research on Mars, and possibly even contribute to the discovery of evidence that life once existed there.

Adriana believes that education comes with the responsibility to share knowledge, and while still on Earth, is actively involved in the promotion of science and space exploration as Special Project Coordinator for the Foundation for Space Development South Africa, an exciting initiative of which is the Africa2Moon project. She has given numerous talks since 2014, inspiring school children, teenagers and adults around South Africa and abroad to get excited about science, believe in their dreams and remember Nelson Mandela’s words “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

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