Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship

Find out more about applying for the Rhodes Scholarship


Scholars' Library: Sarah Stewart Johnson - 'The Sirens of Mars

Scholars' Library: Sarah  Stewart Johnson - 'The Sirens of Mars

29 November 2022

17:00 - 18:00 (GMT+00:00)

Online Platform


Join Sarah Stewart Johnson (Kentucky & Magdalen 2001) for a conversation on her book: 'The Sirens of Mars'

Part of the Lifelong Fellowship portfolio, The Scholars’ Library is a monthly book talk series, where Rhodes alumni can come together to present, discover and debate their literary works. If you’re interested in getting involved, please reach out to Georgie Thurston at

For our November event, we are pleased to invite you to take part in a conversation with Sarah Stewart Johnson (Kentucky & Magdalen 2001), author of 'The Sirens of Mars'

In dialogue with a Scholar in Residence , amongst other topics Sarah will discuss researching of Mars for signs of life, the comparisons between Mars and Earth and also her own writing and research journey.

Mars was once similar to Earth, but today there are no rivers, no lakes, no oceans. Coated in red dust, the terrain is bewilderingly empty. And yet multiple spacecraft are circling Mars, sweeping over Terra Sabaea, Syrtis Major, the dunes of Elysium, and Mare Sirenum—on the brink, perhaps, of a staggering find, one that would inspire humankind as much as any discovery in the history of modern science. In this beautifully observed, deeply personal book, Georgetown scientist Sarah Stewart Johnson tells the story of how she and other researchers have scoured Mars for signs of life, transforming the planet from a distant point of light into a world of its own. In the process, she shows how the story of Mars is also a story about Earth: This other world has been our mirror, our foil, a tell-tale reflection of our own anxieties and yearnings. Empathetic and evocative, The Sirens of Mars offers an unlikely natural history of a place where no human has ever set foot, while providing a vivid portrait of our quest to defy our isolation in the cosmos.

Scholars may obtain a copy of ' The Sirens of Mars' here:

Sarah Stewart Johnson (Kentucky & Magdalen 2001) is the Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of Planetary Science at Georgetown University. Her research is driven by the underlying goal of understanding the presence and preservation of traces of life within planetary environments. Her lab is also involved in the implementation of planetary exploration, analyzing data from current spacecraft and devising new techniques for future missions. A former Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, she received a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, a second B.A. and M.Sc. from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. from MIT before completing a postdoctoral fellowship with the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. She has participated on the science teams for NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Rovers, and since 2016, has been a visiting scientist with the Planetary Environments Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Since 2018, she has also served as the Principal Investigator of the $7M Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures, a NASA-funded research project designed to search for “life as we don’t know it.” Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Harvard Review, and the Best American Science and Nature Writing. Her first book, The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World, was selected as one of The New York Times's 100 Notable Books of 2020, and in 2021, she received the Whiting Award, the largest US literary award for emerging writers.


Please register via this EventBrite page. Your link to join the conversation can be found in your confirmation email, so please keep this safe.

This event is open to the public and will be recorded.

Q & A:

Please feel free to submit any questions in advance to or you can use the chat function within Zoom to ask questions directly during the live event.