Dr Adriana Marais
Head of Innovation at SAP Africa
Dr Adriana Marais, theoretical physicist, Head of Innovation at SAP Africa
and aspiring extraterrestrial, believes that we are living at a unique point in the history of life on Earth. Developments in science and technology are taking place at an unprecedented rate, and the expansion of our society beyond this planet is within reach. In her presentation she talks about her research in quantum biology and the origins of life, the technology required to sustain terrestrial life on Mars and the various projects aiming to send crewed missions there. She describes how the establishment, and potential discovery of evidence of, life on Mars, would be one of the most profound possible contributions of science to humanity.
Adriana studied theoretical physics and philosophy at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (SA). 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 in 2015. She continued as a postdoctoral researcher in the Quantum Research Group established by Prof Francesco Petruccione at UKZN, doing research in quantum biology, studying quantum effects in photosynthesis as well as the origins of prebiotic molecules and life itself. Since the beginning of 2017, she has left academia for the corporate world, in the role of Head of Innovation at SAP Africa, driving digitisation and innovation on the continent.
Adriana has been recognised by the Mail & Guardian as one of 200 Young SA achievers (2014), she was one of 15 recipients worldwide of a L’Oreal-UNESCO International Rising Talent Grant for Women in Science (2015) and she is the 2016 Royal Society of SA Meiring Naude Medal awardee for a young researcher. Also during 2016 she attended the prestigious 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting as one of 400 most qualified young physicists selected worldwide, as well as the International Astronautical Congress in Mexico, to present her research on quantum astrobiology, and hear Elon Musk’s keynote “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species”.