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Photo of Kenig, Fabien

Fabien Kenig, PhD

Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Biogeochemistry, Astrobiology, Paleoceanography


Building & Room:

2450 SES


845 West Taylor St.

Office Phone:

(312) 996-3020


Sometimes identified as an organic geochemist or a biogeochemist, I prefer to consider myself a geologist. I use organic and stable isotope geochemistry as tools to address issues in earth and environmental sciences.

I direct the Organic Geochemistry Laboratory at UIC. This laboratory is equipped to isolate, quantify, and identify organic compounds collected in samples from the geosphere, and includes gas chromatographs coupled to mass spectrometers (GC-MS) as well as a comprehensive multidimensional gas chromatography (GC×GC) and a GC×GC coupled to a time of flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-TOF MS).

Presently, my major Earth Science projects involve paleoceanography and paleobiology. Biomarkers (molecular fossils) are used to define the paleo-water column structure in ancient oceans in order to provide strong constraints for paleoceanographic circulation reconstruction. Biomarkers are also used to provide information on biological processes during the Paleoproterozoic and the Archean. I also study life in extreme environments and uses metabolites as proxies for bacterial processes in both low flow hydrothermal systems of oceanic ridge crusts away from mid-ocean ridges and in the ~x1000 years old cryo-encapsulated brine of Lake Vida (McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica). I am also interested in modern environmental issues, such as the distribution of bisphenol-A in aquatic systems and the concentration of toxic polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) derived from crankcase oil on roads as well as open and enclosed parking structures. I enjoy the diversity of these projects as I believe that overspecialization can result in scientific sterility.

Selected Publications

Complete list of publications on Google Scholar

  • Doran P.T., Kenig F., Lawson Knoepfle J.L., Mikucki J.A., Lyons W.B. (2014) Radiocarbon distribution and the effect of legacy in lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Limnology & Oceanography59, 3, 811-826.
  • Murray A.E., Kenig F., Fritsen C.H., McKay C.P., Cawley K.M., McKnight D.M., Samarkin V., Ponce A., Yung P.T., Wagh P., Peng V., Priscu J.C., Doran P.T. (2012) Microbial life at -13 ºC in the brine of an ice-sealed Antarctic lake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States109, 50, 20626–20631.
  • Kenig F. (2011) Distribution of organic matter in the transgressive and regressive Holocene sabkha sediments of Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates). In: Quaternary carbonate and evaporite sedimentary facies and their ancient analogues: A Tribute to Douglas James Shearman. Eds: C. G. St C. Kendall and A. Alsharhan.  Assoc. Sedimentol. Spec. Publ.43, Wiley-Blackwell, pp 277-298.
  • Jaraula C.M.B., Kenig F., Doran P.T., Priscu J.C., Welsch K.A. (2008) SPME-GCMS study of the natural attenuation of aviation diesel spilled on the perennial ice cover of Lake Fryxell, Antarctica. Science of the Total Environment407, 1, 250-262.
  • Ventura G.T., Kenig F., Reddy C.M., Schieber J., Frysinger G.S., Nelson R.K., Dinel E., Gaines R.B., Schaeffer P. (2007) Molecular evidence of Late Archean Archaea and the presence of a subsurface biosphere. Proceeding of the National Academy of Science USA104, 14260-14265.
  • Ventura G.T., Kenig F., Reddy C.M., Frysinger G.S., Nelson R.K., Van Mooy B., Gaines R.B., (2008) Analysis of unresolved complex mixtures of hydrocarbons extracted from late Archean sediments using comprehensive two dimensional gas chromatography (GC×GC). Organic Geochemistry39, 7, 846-867.
  • Kenig F., Hudson J.D., Sinninghe Damsté J.S. and B.N. Popp (2004) Intermittent anoxia: Reconciliation of a Jurassic black shale with its biofacies. Geology32, 5, 421-424.


PhD, 1991, Université d’Orléans, France