Postdoctoral Researcher and Laboratory Manager


Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
E25-618, 45 Carleton Street
Cambridge, MA 02142


2021-present – Postdoc & Lab Manager, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
2020-2021 – Postdoc, Shanghai Jiaotong University, China
2015-2020 – Ph.D., Geology, Peking University, China
2018-2019 –Visiting Ph.D., Geobiology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
2011-2015 – B.Sc., Geology, China University of Geosciences, Beijing, China


Jian has broad research interests in the interpretation of sedimentary records in both modern and historical Earth’s archives by joint pathways of sedimentology, organic geochemistry, and inorganic geochemistry. As a previous visiting Ph.D. student and the current postdoc, Jian digs deep into the structures and functions of lipid biomarkers and, in particular, molecular sulfurization. After numerous failures, his successful establishment of the Raney-Nickel device and the methodologies of non-contaminated desulfurization makes the exploration of sulfur-sequestered biomarkers in manifold geological samples possible. Benefiting from it, Jian is now working on multifarious scientific topics, including the mechanisms of PZE in modern open oceans and lakes, geological ecosystem overhauls in response to marine ingressions, and the reverberation of natural sulfurization on the organic preservation and resistance to the biodegradation. Meanwhile, Jian has intense interests and has gone out of his way to the complex organic – inorganic interplays of the precipitation of terrestrial carbonates and, exceptionally, the Schwabe cycle preserved in aragonite varved successions throughout the Cenozoic in the Qaidam Basin, which seems to be the proof of the long-lasting solar-driven force on lacustrine sedimentation.

Select Publications

Ma, J. & Cui X.Q. 2022. Aromatic carotenoids: biological sources and geological implications. Geosystems and Geoenvironment, 100045.

Ma, J., Wu, C., Uveges, B. T., Ding, W., Summons, R. E., & Cui, X. 2022. Biomarkers reveal Eocene marine incursions into the Qaidam Basin, north Tibetan Plateau. Organic Geochemistry, 104380.

Ma J., French K., Cui X.Q., Bryant D., & Summons R.E. 2021. Carotenoid Biomarkers in Namibian Shelf sediments: Anoxygenic Photosynthesis during Sulfide Eruptions in the Benguela Upwelling System. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118 (29), e2106040118.

Xutong Guan, Chaodong Wu, Tianqi Zhou, Xueying Tang, Jian Ma, Yanan Fang. Jurassic–Lower Cretaceous sequence stratigraphy and allogenic controls in proximal terrestrial environments (Southern Junggar Basin, NW China). Geological Journal. 2021. 56 (8), 4038-4062.

Xingqian Cui, Xiaolei Liu, Gaozhong Shen, Jian Ma, Fatima Husain, Donald Rocher, John Zumberge, Bryant Donald, Roger Summons. 2020. Niche expansion for phototrophic sulfur bacteria at the Proterozoic-Phanerozoic transition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117 (30), 17599-17606.

Yizhe Wang, Chaodong Wu, Yanan Fang, Jian Ma, Bing Shen, Fang Huang, Linlin Li, Meng Ning, Wei Zhang. 2020 Mg, C and O isotopic compositions of Late Cretaceous lacustrine dolomite and travertine in the northern Tianshan Mountains, Northwest China. Chemical Geology 541, 119569.

Yizhe Wang, Chaodong Wu, Yanan Fang, Jian Ma, Bing Shen, Fang Huang, Tianqi Zhou, Jialin Wang, Wei Zhang 2019 Origin and palaeoenvironmental indications of Eocene to Oligocene primary lacustrine dolomite, Northern Tianshan Mountains, NW China. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 198, 104135.

Tianqi Zhou, Chaodong Wu, Bo Yuan, Zhongkui Shi, Jialin Wang, Wen Zhu, Yanxi Zhou, Xi Jiang, Jinyong Zhao, Jun Wang and Jian Ma. 2019. New insights into multiple provenances evolution of the Jurassic from heavy minerals characteristics in southern Junggar Basin, NW China. Petroleum Exploration and Development, 46, 67-81.

Yanting Duan, Chaodong Wu, Xiaodong Zheng, Yucheng Huang, and Jian Ma. 2018. Coherence based on spectral variance analysis. Geophysics, 83, 55-66.

Ma J., Wu C.D., Wang Y.Z., Wang J.L., Fang Y.N., Zhu W., Zhai L.N., & Zhou T.Q. 2017. Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of saline lake in the Tertiary: Evidence from aragonite laminae in the northern Tibet Plateau. Sedimentary Geology, 353, 1-12.