About the Summons Lab

We study organic matter from microbes, environmental samples, and from some of the oldest rocks on the planet. Ancient rocks and oils contain a rich abundance of hidden information within, including molecular and isotopic signatures of the organisms that existed at the time the organic matter was formed. The goal of our research is to extract and interpret these signals in order to reconstruct ancient environments, understand how life evolved within them, and elucidate the foundations of complex life.

Such interaction of the geosphere and biosphere is how we define the field of geobiology. Through this study, we hope to obtain a better understanding of the timing and context of oxygenic photosynthesis (about 3 billion years ago), the conditions that led to the appearance of complex animal life on earth, and the causes of major mass extinction events. The techniques we develop might eventually help us detect signs of life on other planets, the science known as Astrobiology. Our lab is primarily funded by the Simons Collaboration on the Origins of Life (SCOL).

Accelerated Solvent Extractor Accelerated Solvent Extractor

The ASE extracts solid and semisolid samples with liquid solvents at elevated temperatures and pressures for increased efficiency.

Gas Chromatographs Gas Chromatographs

Gas chromatography is the main technique we use to separate out the individual components of very complex mixtures.

High Resolution Mass Spectrometer High Resolution Mass Spectrometer

The autospec combines the separating power of gas chromatography with the sensitivity of mass spectrometric detection.

Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer

Stable isotope analysis for many different types of substances—organic matter, carbonates, gases and individual organic compounds.

Agilent 6000 Series HPLC-MS Agilent 6000 Series HPLC-MS

High Pressure Liquid Chromatography separates compounds, a Quadrupole Time-of-Flight mass spectrometer identifies lipids.

Lab Tour Lab Tour

Click here to venture on a virtual, photographic tour of the Summons lab, its facilities, and instruments.


4 October 2019

Welcoming Visiting Student Jaz Millar

Welcoming Visiting Student Jaz Millar

For the month of October, Cardiff University research student Jaz Millar will work in the Summons Lab to study the lipid profiles of microbial communities grown under Snowball Earth-like conditions. In her research, Millar studies how life survived and maintained diversity during the Cryogenian period 720-635 million years ago. She investigates the potential of cryoconite […]

8 September 2019

The Summons Lab presents at IMOG 2019

The Summons Lab presents at IMOG 2019

Six members of the Summons Lab traveled from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Göteborg, Sweden, to present their ongoing research at the International Meeting of Organic Geochemistry. The meeting, which takes place every two years, hosts organic geochemists from around the world, and features a combination of talks, posters, and opportunities for colleagues to connect. All Summons […]