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For a decade, Dr Ram Karan has been looking for the answer to one question — how does life survive, and thrive, in extreme conditions? While he looked for answers on earth, the discovery of liquid “water” bodies (as opposed to frozen) on Mars with exactly the kind of extreme conditions he analyses means his work could hold the key to understanding extraterrestrial life.

The 37-year-old enzymology research scientist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia has been studying extremophiles, microorganisms that thrive in inhospitable conditions — no oxygen, sub-zero temperatures, salt content that would kill most organisms — of the Red Sea, Antarctica and others.

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