Imperial College London


Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Head of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering



+44 (0)20 7594 6542m.a.sephton Website




Ms Daphne Salazar +44 (0)20 7594 7401




G30 (via G28)Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus






Organic Geochemistry involves the recognition and interpretation of organic records in planetary settings. Organic structures and their stable isotopic compositions can record chemical evolution in the solar system, the origin of life, habitation of environments and biological evolution over time. Organic compounds are also very sensitive to alteration and post formation changes can be related to thermal, aqueous, radiative and oxidative processing. From  prebiotic chemistry in meteorites, through the many reservoirs of organic molecular fossils on Earth, to the search for evidence of past or present life on Mars, information-rich organic chronicles can be read using modern analytical methods.


  • Professor, Imperial College London 2007 – present
  • Reader, Imperial College London 2005 – 2007
  • Lecturer, Open University 2000 – 2005
  • Post Doc, Open University 1998 – 2000
  • Post Doc, Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and University of Utrecht 1996 – 1998
  • PhD, Open University 1993 – 1996
  • MSc, University of Newcastle 1991– 1992
  • BSc, University of Durham 1988 – 1991

Notable Recent ACTIVITIES

Research Interests

  • Meteorites and extraterrestrial organic matter
  • Organic matter detection on space missions
  • Organic proxies of environmental change
  • Causes and consequences of mass extinctions
  • Petroleum geochemistry and unconventional hydrocarbons
  • Organic molecules in forensic science and biochemistry

Management and Administration

  • Head of Department, Earth Science & Engineering
  • Manager, Organic and Petrophysics Laboratories
  • Chair, Departmental Safety Committee
  • Group Leader, Imperial College Organic Geochemistry

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Montgomery W, Sephton MA, Watson JS, et al., 2015, Minimising hydrogen sulphide generation during steam assisted production of heavy oil, Scientific Reports, Vol:5, ISSN:2045-2322

Sephton MA, Jiao D, Engel MH, et al., 2015, Terrestrial acidification during the end-Permian biosphere crisis?, Geology, Vol:43, ISSN:1943-2682, Pages:159-162

Lewis JMT, Watson JS, Najorka J, et al., 2015, Sulfate Minerals: A Problem for the Detection of Organic Compounds on Mars?, Astrobiology, Vol:15, ISSN:1557-8070

Sephton MA, Lewis JMT, Watson JS, et al., 2014, Perchlorate-induced combustion of organic matter with variable molecular weights: Implications for Mars missions, Geophysical Research Letters, Vol:41, ISSN:0094-8276, Pages:7453-7460

Sephton MA, Carter JN, 2014, Statistics Provide Guidance for Indigenous Organic Carbon Detection on Mars Missions, Astrobiology, Vol:14, ISSN:1531-1074, Pages:706-713

Montgomery W, Watson JS, Sephton MA, 2014, An organic cosmo-barometer: Distinct pressure and temperature effects for methyl substituted polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Astrophysical Journal, Vol:784, ISSN:0004-637X

Carter JN, Sephton MA, 2013, A Bayesian statistical assessment of representative samples for asteroidal or meteoritical material, Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Vol:48, ISSN:1086-9379, Pages:976-996

Sephton MA, 2013, Aromatic units from the macromolecular material in meteorites: Molecular probes of cosmic environments, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, Vol:107, ISSN:0016-7037, Pages:231-241

Sephton MA, Hazen RM, 2013, On the origins of deep hydrocarbons, Reviews in Mineralogy & Geochemistry, Vol:75, ISSN:1529-6466, Pages:449-465


Sephton MA, 2014, Organic Geochemistry of Meteorites, Treatise on Geochemistry, Editor(s): Turekian, Elsevier Science, Pages:1-31

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