Brendan Mullan is a National Geographic Emerging Explorer and recent Ph.D. graduate of Penn State University’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 2012, he won NASA’s FameLab astrobiology competition, which honors scientists who excel in communicating their work and scientific content to a variety of audiences.


Having been raised by a biologist and a chemist, Mullan was never intimidated by science, but he recognizes that many people are. He developed a passion for learning at a very young age, and he hopes to share that passion with the public and future generations of scientists and explorers. Mullan enjoys the challenge of finding innovative ways to communicate scientific information in a relevant, accessible, and engaging way for all audiences, novice and expert alike.


As an astronomer, Mullan studies space beyond Earth’s atmosphere. His area of specialization is astrobiology, which explores the origin, evolution, and distribution of life both on Earth and in space. Astrobiology is a complex subject and requires him to have knowledge of multiple scientific disciplines, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, geology, engineering, and geography. Astrobiology research seeks answers to questions such as whether or not life exists beyond Earth, what limits life from originating and/or evolving, and how extraterrestrial life could be detected. Recent astrobiology research has focused on finding extraterrestrial environments with conditions likely to harbor life. Resulting from a number of international collaborations, several research missions are currently underway, including the Cassini probe’s study of Saturn and its moons, and the Phoenix Mars Lander, Mars Science Laboratory, and ExoMars.


person who studies the possibility of life in outer space.


the study of space beyond Earth's atmosphere.


study of the composition of matter and the activity of radiation in space.


study of living things.


study of the atoms and molecules that make up different substances.


the art and science of building, maintaining, moving, and demolishing structures.


study and investigation of unknown places, concepts, or issues.


all known matter, energy, and space.


This material is based in part upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-0840250. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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