NAI Announces Two MIRS Sabbatical Awards

The NAI Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) Program is pleased to announce the selection of two faculty sabbatical research awards to Abel Mendez, from the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo, and to Don Walter from South Carolina State University. The NAI-MIRS program, which is funded by the NAI, provides opportunities for researchers, from qualified minority serving institutions, to initiate joint partnerships with researchers in the field of astrobiology.

Abel Mendez will continue the development of a field instrument designed to model microbial growth in the dynamic temperatures of natural environments. Working with Chris McKay, at the NASA Ames Research Center, Mendez will measure growth rates of soil microbes in temperate and tropical climates. Mendez is a biophysicist and Assistant Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, a Hispanic Serving Institution. Mendez's work focuses on defining quantitative ways to measure planetary habitability. He presented a poster last year at AbSciCon 2006 on planetary habitability and will also present a poster this summer at Bioastronomy 2007.

Don Walter will work with Mike Mumma and Michael DiSanti, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Walter is an astronomer who holds the rank of Professor of Physics at SCSU, a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) located in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Walter's work this summer will include optical studies of emission lines from comets and will lead to the development of a program of sustainable cometary research at SCSU in partnership with GCA. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

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