Dr. Maria Fernanda Mora

Dr. Mora received her Bachelor degree in Chemistry from The National University of Córdoba in Argentina in 2002. In 2005, she enrolled in the Masters program at the University of Texas at San Antonio and shortly after she transferred to the PhD Program at the same university. Her research was focused on developing new strategies for the analysis of biologically active compounds by capillary electrophoresis and microchip electrophoresis. She graduated from UTSA on May 2009 and joined JPL as a postdoc in 2010. During her first year as a postdoc, Dr. Mora developed the first integrated microdevice for completely automated analysis of amino acids by microchip electrophoresis (ME) coupled to laser induced fluorescence (LIF) detection. This work is essential to develop ME-LIF instrumentation for in situ planetary exploration. After her postdoc, Dr. Mora joined the Advanced Microfabrication and Optoelectronics Group at JPL. Her current work involves developing strategies for simultaneous analysis of inorganic ions and organic molecules by microchip electrophoresis and contactless conductivity detection as well as analysis of organic biosignatures by capillary electrophoresis and mass spectrometry.

  • Ph.D. in Chemistry Chemistry Department, The University of Texas at San Antonio, USA (2005 – 2009).
  • B.S. in Chemistry School of Chemistry, National Univ. of Cordoba, Argentina. (1997 –2002).

Research Interests: 

Microfluidics, biosignatures detection, in situ instruments

Professional Experience: 
  • Microfluidics Technologist, Advanced Microfabrication and Optoelectronics Group, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. March 2013 to date. PI of PICASSO Project Microfluidic Ion Analyzer for Astrobiology Studies (2016-2019)
  • Caltech Postdoctoral Scholar at JPL. March 2010 to February 2013.
  • Research Scientist, UTSA.  From September 2009 to February 2010.
  • Research Assistant, National University of Cordoba. Argentina. From May to August 2009.
  • Graduate Research Assistant, UTSA. 2007 to April 2009.

Selected Awards: 
  • JPL Voyager Award, 2016
  • JPL Team Award (Proposal on Mars 2020 Instrument Opportunity), 2014
  • Presidential Dissertation Fellowship, UTSA 2008.
  • Robert A. Welch Fellowship, Summer Research 2005.
  • Graduate Fellowship, Research Council of Argentina (CONICET) 2002-2004.
  • Undergraduate Fellowship, Antorchas Foundation, Argentina 2001

Selected Publications: 
  1. Enhanced resolution of chiral amino acids with capillary electrophoresis for biosignature detection in extraterrestrial samples. Creamer, J. S.; Mora, M. F.; Willis, P. A.,  Analytical Chemistry, submitted 2016.
  2. The Chemical Laptop: a Portable, Fully Automated Microchip Electrophoresis Instrument for Future in situ Planetary Investigations. Mora, M. F.; Bramall, N.; Kehl, F.; Willis, P. A., Lab on a Chip, in preparation 2016.
  3. Implementation of microchip electrophoresis instrumentation for future spaceflight missions. Willis, P. A.; Creamer, J. S.; Mora, M. F., Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 2015, 407 (23), 6939-6963.
  4. Getting started with Open-Hardware: Development and Control of Microfluidic Devices. Tavares da Costa, E.; Mora, M. F.; Willis, P. A.; do Lago, C. L.; Jiao, H.; Garcia, C. D., Electrophoresis,  2014, 35 (16), 2370-2377.
  5. Microchip Nonaqueous Capillary Electrophoresis of Saturated Fatty Acids Using a New Fluorescent Dye. Cable, M. L.; Stockton, A. M.; Mora, M. F.; Hand, K. P.; Peter A. Willis, Anal. Methods, 2014, 6 (24), 9532-9535. Featured in chemistryworld.com article “Close encounters of the fatty acid kind”, July 16th, 2014.
  6. Low temperature microchip non-aqueous capillary electrophoresis (µNACE) of long-chain primary amines: Applications to Titan chemistry. Cable, M. L.; Stockton, A. M.; Mora, M. F.; Willis, P. A., Anal. Chem. 2013, 85, 1124−1131.
  7. Analysis of Thiols by Microchip Capillary Electrophoresis for In Situ Planetary Investigations. Mora, M. F.; Stockton, A. M.; Willis, P. A., Electrophoresis 2013, 34, 309–316. Featured in separationsNOW.com article “Does ET smell of garlic? A CE method for detecting thiols on alien planets”, Jan. 18th, 2013.
  8. Microchip Capillary Electrophoresis Instrumentation for In Situ Analysis in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life. Mora, M. F.; Stockton, A. M.; Willis, P. A., Electrophoresis 2012, 33, 2624–2638. Invited contribution to the Special Issue “Instrumentation for Capillary and Microchip Electrophoresis”
  9. Towards Total Automation of Microfluidics for Extraterrestial In Situ Analysis. Mora, M. F.; Greer, F. H.; Stockton, A. M.; Bryant, S.; Willis, P. A., Anal. Chem. 2011, 83 (22), 8636-8641. Featured in C&EN, Vol. 89, Number 43, p. 8. Featured in separationsNOW.com article “Automatic alien amino acid analysis: Detecting amino acids on a single microfluidic device”, Nov. 21st, 2011.
Dr. Maria Fernanda Mora
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109
Phone: 818-731-8800