Adriana Marais

Watch this space: expanding our imaginations and our world

Adriana Marais studied theoretical physics and philosophy at the University of Cape Town. She completed her MSc summa cum laude in quantum cryptography at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and was awarded her PhD in quantum biology at the same institute earlier this year. She is a member of the Quantum Research Group established by Prof. Francesco Petruccione at UKZN, and plans to continue doing research in quantum biology, specifically studying quantum effects in photosynthesis as well as the origins of prebiotic molecules and life itself. Adriana has published a number of scientific and media articles on her research. Most recently, she and her team published an article “A quantum protective mechanism in photosynthesis” in the Nature journal Scientific Reports. In 2014 she was one of 200 Young South African achievers recognised by the Mail and Guardian. In 2015 she was one of 15 recipients worldwide of a L’Oreal‐UNESCO International Rising Talent Grant for Women in Science. Adriana believes that education is a privilege that comes with the responsibility to share knowledge, and has been involved in a range of science development programmes, including lecturing physics for the Centre for Science Access at UKZN and the BHP Billiton BSc for Educators Programme in the Northern Cape. Since childhood she has dreamed of living on another planet, and she is currently one of the 100 Mars One Project astronaut candidates in the running to move to the red planet in 2026. She hopes one day to continue her research on Mars, and possibly even contribute to the discovery of evidence that life once existed there. While still on Earth, she is actively involved in the promotion of science and space exploration as Special Project Coordinator for the Foundation for Space Development South Africa, an exciting initiative of which is the Africa2Moon project. She has given numerous talks since 2014, inspiring school children, teenagers and adults around South Africa and abroad to get excited about science, believe in their dreams and remember Nelson Mandela’s words “It always seems impossible until it’s done”.