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  • Sara Thompson

Dr. Roseli Ocampo-Friendmann

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

Image is of Dr. Roseli Ocampo-Friendmann from the Association of Women in Science, (AWIS.org)


Roseli Ocampo was born in the Philippines at the end of November 1937. She is best known for her work with cyanobacteria and other extremophiles. She received her first degree in 1958 from the University of the Philippines and later her master’s degree in 1966 from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She worked for a few years at Manila’s National Institute of Science and Technology. In 1968, she moved to the U.S. and began her PhD at Florida State University. She received her PhD in 1973, and would marry her partner, Dr. Imre Friedmann the following year.


Ocampo-Friedmann would spend most of her career working for Florida A&M University during the school year and Florida State University during summers. Her research would take her and her spouse all over the world studying microorganisms and cyanobacteria. She wanted to study how these organisms survived in such extreme conditions. Over the course of her career she would collect over 1000 types of microorganisms from extreme environments around the world.


One of her most cited expeditions was to Antarctica. During the expedition her and team traveled to the Ross Desert in the Dry Valley region. The area is frigid and arid, and devoid of ice or snow. It was believed that nothing lived there because of the extreme conditions. Dr. Ocampo-Friedman and her team were successful in finding microorganisms on the rocks, called cryptoendoliths. The microorganisms were able to tolerate the extreme cold, and during the summer months thaw, rehydrate and photosynthesize, before going dormant during winter again.


In her laboratory in Florida, Dr. Ocampo-Friedmann successfully cultured the cryptoendoliths and published her results. This publication has been cited as a means for providing life on Mars as it has a similar climate to the Dry Valley region of Antarctica. This would lead her to becoming a consultant for the SETI Institute.


Roseli Ocampo Friedmann was awarded the Antarctic Service Medal in 1981 from the National Science Foundation for her work with microorganisms in Antarctica. Friedmann Peak in Antarctica is named after her and her spouse. And other rock growing microorganisms have been named after her. She passed away in 2005, leaving behind a legacy of going to extremes to finding life on this planet, and potentially a means to live on others.



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