Assistant Professor (Biology), Carleton College
Dual-Title Ph.D., Oceanography & Astrobiology, UW (2013)
Astrobiology Areas of Interest: Origin & Evolution of Life on Earth, Life in Extreme Environments, Education & Outreach
In January 2017, Rika returned to Carleton College as an Assistant Professor in Biology. She obtained her B.A. there in 2006.
As a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Rika worked with Rachel Whitaker (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Julie Huber (Marine Biological Laboratory), as well as members of the University of Washington astrobiology community, to better understand how microbes evolve over time, both now and in the past, through the process of gene gain and loss.
Rika graduated from the UW in 2013 with a Ph.D. in Oceanography and Astrobiology. She worked with Professor John Baross on the ecology and evolution of microbial communities at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. They worked to better understand the ways in which viruses, which most people consider to be harmful parasites, may actually help their bacterial and archaeal hosts to better survive in the harsh conditions of hydrothermal vent environments.
Through all of this work, they hoped to gain insight into the fundamental evolutionary processes occurring in these extreme environments, which may help us understand how life could operate in similar environments on other planetary bodies as well as in the origin and early evolution of life itself.