Merve Yeşilbaş


2022-  Assistant Professor, Umeå University

2019-2022 Post doc at SETI Institute (USA) and NASA Astrobiology Institute with J. Bishop. (

Supported by a Postdoctoral Grant by the Swedish Research Council (Umeå University) and a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellowship.

2018 Ph.D Chemistry, Umeå University.
Thesis can be found here

2013 MSc Physics, Umeå University

2011 BSc Physics, Yıldız Technical University, Turkey


Google Scholar      ResearchGate     Linkedin

Planetary Geochemistry and Spectroscopy

We are searching for one of the biggest quests of humanity: “Are We Alone?”. To resolve this, we are addressing the following questions:

  • Is there water on Mars?
  • What is the role of water in martian geochemical history?
  • How can we reveal the potential water resources for future human explorations on Mars?

Our research focuses on the geochemical changes of the planet Mars and alien oceans using spectroscopic techniques. We use martian analogue rocks and soils collected from the extreme environments on Earth to reveal the geochemical and climate history of Mars. We combine the laboratory data with martian orbit data, especially the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

If you would like to know more about ongoing research from our lab, you could watch this IceLab pitch link given by the group leader Dr. Yeşilbaş.

More details on our new research laboratories on Planetary Geochemistry and Spectroscopy Group will be posted shortly!

Per Aspera Ad Astra!🚀


Postdoc Project at NASA/SETI (2019-2022)

Supported by a Postdoctoral Grant by the Swedish Research Council and by the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellowship that administrated through Universities Space Research Association (USRA) for NASA Astrobiology Institute.

I am currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the SETI Institute ( in Mountain View (CA, USA). SETI (Search for Extraterrestial Life and Intelligence) Institute is a non-profit research organization collaborates with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). I am supported by a Swedish Research Council International Postdoctoral Grant (2018-06694) and the NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) Fellowship, both awarded to me.

My research aims to understand the aqueous processes and geochemical environment on Mars, revealing the potential water resources, and life signatures for future human explorations. Advancing that, my research bridges the laboratory analyses of minerals and martian analogues with Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM) remote sensing data from Mars.

Current Research Activities:

Reactions at minerals-water/ice interface:

  • Develop a fundamental understanding for formation and reactivity of ice, water, cryosalt formation at minerals using low-temperature vibrational spectroscopy.
  • Atmospheric gas adsorption at mineral-water and mineral-ice interfaces.

Mars Analog studies:

  • Analysis of low- and high temperature FTIR and thermal gravimetric laboratory data of analogue materials; focusing on iron-bearing phyllosilicates and sulphate minerals, volcanic soils (e.g. Hawaii), and sediments from frozen desert environments (e.g. Antarctic Dry Valleys).
  • Probe ‘the transient liquid salty water formation’ in martian analogues to develope a fundamental understanding for Mars (sub)surface processes using low- temperature FTIR spectroscopy.

Mars surface composition and processes:

  • Remote Sensing using CRISM data: Analysis of VNIR spectral analyses to characterize surface minerals; focusing on identifying OH/H2O-bearing minerals (e.g. clays, sulphates) to understand the history of water activity on Mars.


Ph.D. Thesis (completed 2018)

Mineral surfaces control the adsorption of water vapour and other atmospheric gases (e.g CO2, SO2) as well as aqueous species formation. These reactions are central  to  atmospheric, environmental, (bio)geochemistry and even astrobiological studies.

My Ph.D. thesis (main supervisor: Jean-François Boily) was focused on the adsorption/condensation of water vapour and ice at mineral surfaces, as well as their relationship to  cryosalt minerals and their interactions with CO2. Mineral-bound thin water and ice films are directly relevant to, (bio)geochemistry, astrobiology and atmospheric sciences. For instance,  cloud formation can often be triggered by the condensation of water vapor on tiny mineral dust particles. My work involves the study of over 19 different minerals relevant to the atmosphere, terrestrial systems, and even potentially  for planet Mars.  These minerals are of different i) surface structures and (ii) morphologies, (iii) chemical compositions and (iv) particle sizes. Examples  include synthetic iron (oxyhydr)oxides, silicates, clays Arizona Test Dust (ATD) and Icelandic volcanic ash.


I have predominantly used Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) for my research. Using various reaction IR cells, I have experience in operating systems from ultrahigh vacuum to pressurized environments, and with temperatures ranging from -130°C to 700°C. Additionally, I have gained, from by  MSc work in Physics, experience with Raman spectroscopy and spectroscopic ellipsometry to characterize semiconductors coated with thin carbon-based fullerene (C60) films.



[11]   Bishop JL, Yeşilbaş M, Hinman NW, Burton ZMF, Englert PAJ,  Toner JD, McEwen AS, Gulick VC, Gibson EK, Koeberl C. 2021. Martian subsurface cryosalt expansion and collapse as trigger for landslides. Sci. Adv. 7, eabe4459.

[10] Yalcin SE, Legg BA, Yeşilbaş M, Malvankar NS, Boily JF‡ 2020. Direct observation of anisotropic growth of water films on minerals driven by defects and surface tension. Sci. Adv6, eaaz9708

[9] Yeşilbaş M.‡, Song X.., Boily J.-F.‡ 2020. Carbon dioxide binding in supercooled water nanofilms on nanominerals Environ. Sci.: Nano 7, 437-442.

[8] Yeşilbaş M.‡, Holmboe M., Boily J.-F.‡ 2019. Residence Times of Nanoconfined CO2 in Layered Aluminosilicates. Environ. Sci.: Nano 6, 146-151.

[7] Lucas M., Yeşilbaş M., Shchukarev A., Boily J-F. 2018 X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy of Fast-Frozen Hematite Colloids in Aqueous Solutions. 6. Sodium Halide (F-, Cl-, Br-, I-) Ion Binding on Microparticles. Langmuir6, 13497-13504.

[6] Yeşilbaş M., Boily J-F ‡.2018. Ice and cryosalt formation in saline microporous clay gels. ACS Earth Space. Chem.2,314-319.

[5] Yeşilbaş M., Holmboe M, Boily J-F ‡.2018. A cohesive vibrational and structural depiction of intercalated water in montmorillonite. ACS Earth Space. Chem.2, 38-47.

[4] Yeşilbaş, M. and Boily, J.-F. Particle Size Controls on Water Adsorption and Condensation Regimes at Mineral Surfaces. Sci. Rep. 6, 32136; doi: 10.1038/srep32136 (2016).

[3] Yeşilbaş M. and Boily J-F., Ice Films at Mineral Surfaces, J. Phys. Chem. Lett, 7(14), 2849- 2855; DOI:10.1021/acs.jpclett.6b01037 (2016).

[2] Boily, J-F. , Yeşilbaş, M., Md. Musleh Uddin, Munshi., Baiqing, Lu., Trushkina, Yulia., Salazar-Alvarez, German., Thin Water Films at Multifaceted Hematite Particle Surfaces, Langmuir, 31(48), 13127-13137. DOI:10.1021/acs.langmuir.5b03167 (2015).

[1] Yesilbas M., Makarova T. L., Zakharova I., ‘Fullerene films with suppressed polymerizing ability’., Nanosystems: Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, 5 (1), 53-61, (2014).