March 2011

The University of Hawaii NASA Astrobiology Institute (UHNAI) will host the invitation-only Computational Astrobiology Summer Symposium (CASS) from August 1-15 2011. This is an excellent opportunity for graduate students in computer science and related areas to expand their knowledge of astrobiology by applying their computational skills in substantial projects that solve the real-world challenges faced by astrobiology research scientists.

The two-week on-site part of the program will be an intensive survey of the field of astrobiology. NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) scientists will present their work, and the group will discuss ways in which computational tools (e.g. models, simulations, data processing applications, sensor networks, etc.) could advance astrobiology research. Also during this time, participants will define their projects, with the help of the participating NAI researchers. Suitable projects are significant team or individual programming efforts that result in useful tools for astrobiology research.

On returning to their home institutions, participants will begin work on their projects, under the supervision of a mentor, with appropriate input from the astrobiologist(s). The amount of time required to complete a project will vary, but the effort should be roughly equivalent to a one semester, three credit-hour course. Indeed, we anticipate that most participants will arrange to earn credit for their project at their home institution. When the projects are completed, participants are expected to submit a poster to an astrobiology-related conference (some travel support available).

Application deadline: April 15, 2011

For more information, see

Source: NAI Newsletter

Every summer, NAI teams and others host hands-on, in-the-field, in-the-lab workshops for educators. The workshops feature cutting edge astrobiology research delivered by astrobiology scientists and education professionals, as well as inquiry- and standards-based activities ready for your classroom. Below is the list of offerings for Summer 2011.


Dates: July 17-23, 2011
Location: San Francisco, CA
Applications due: March 31, 2011

The ASSET experience will be intense and exciting, interactive and content rich, with presentations by leading astrobiology researchers from the SETI Institute, NASA, and the California Academy of Sciences. Participants receive the Voyages Through Time curriculum. All expenses are covered for participants.


Dates: July 7-13, 2011
Location: University of Hawai'i, Manoa, Oahu, HI
Applications due: March 31, 2011
Contact: Mary Kado'oka,

This workshop, designed for secondary science teachers, will introduce the big picture of astrobiology before delving deeper to highlight specific contributions from cosmochemistry, heliophysics, astronomy, geosciences and evolution. The central theme is "twin timelines" - the timeline of the universe (from the Big Bang to the origin of our species) and the timeline of human discoveries (from the Age of Enlightenment to emerging frontiers). Besides lectures and state-of-the-art lab tours, the newest development will be the active participation of all scientists leading hands-on activities. Registration fee is $50. Because of a tuition waiver, 3 University of Hawaii graduate education credits will be offered for the administrative fee of $158. A limited number of teachers from continental US will receive a subsidy of $1000 to defray expenses. Accepted Hawaii teachers will be fully subsidized. Dormitory accommodations will be available on the UH campus within walking distance of the workshop.

Source: NAI Newsletter

A new virtual Astrobiology Centre is being founded at Stockholm University to which the Departments of Astronomy, Geology, Physics, and Molecular Biology and Functional Genomics will contribute. The centre will conduct a multitude of interdisciplinary research efforts, some carried out in cooperation with NAI teams. Four postdoctoral researchers will be hired for these projects over the next four years. In addition, five graduate student (Ph.D.) positions starting in Fall 2011 have been announced (information at ).

In addition to research activities, the centre, which will be an extension of the existing Astrobiology Graduate School, will organise special courses in astrobiology, summer schools, conferences, and seminars. The Nordic Network of Astrobiology Graduate Schools is also coordinated from Stockholm University.

Source: NAI Newsletter

The deadline for the 2011 MIRS Program is March 31, 2011.

The Astrobiology Program Minority Institution Research Support (MIRS) program, administered by the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation, provides funded opportunities for researchers from minority institutions to initiate partnerships with researchers in the field of astrobiology. Past MIRS Scholars have worked with researchers at UCLA, NASA Ames, the University of Hawaii, JPL, the University of Wisconsin, NASA Goddard, and Portland State University.

For more information:

Source: NAI Newsletter

NASA is accepting applications from science and engineering post-docs, recent PhDs, and doctoral students for its 23rd Annual Planetary Science Summer School, which will hold two separate sessions this summer (18-22 July and 1-5 August) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. During the program and pre-session webinars, student teams will carry out the equivalent of an early mission concept study, prepare a proposal authorization review presentation, present it to a review board, and receive feedback. By the completion of the session, students will have a clearer understanding of the mission design relationships among science instruments, cost, and schedule, and the trade-offs necessary to stay within cost and schedule while preserving the opportunity to acquire high-quality science. They will also understand the lifecycle of a robotic space mission.

Application Deadline: April 1, 2011

For more information, see

Source: NAI Newsletter

The NASA Astrobiology Program Research Scholarship Program offers research-related travel support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Applicants are encouraged to use these resources to circulate among two or more research teams, however any travel that is critical for the applicant's research will be considered. Travelers must be formally affiliated with a U.S. institution. Requests are limited to $5,000.

For more information, see

Source: NAI Newsletter

The NASA Astrobiology Program is pleased to announce the selection of four new NASA Postdoctoral Fellows:

Aaron Engelhart (Georgia Tech)
Advisor: Jack Szostak (Exobiology: Prebiotic Evolution, Mass General/ Harvard)
Topic: "Experimental Models of a Key Step in Prebiotic Compartmentalization: Coupling Vesicle Growth and Nucleic Acid Synthesis"

Svetlana Berdyugina (ETH Zurich)
Advisor: Karen Meech (NAI University of Hawaii Team)
Topic: "Hot Water in Exoplanets and Protoplanetary Disks"

Aaron Goldman (University of Washington)
Advisor: Laura Landweber at Princeton University (NAI, Georgia Tech Team)
Topic: "ORGOS: A Database and Unified Organizational Framework to Aggregate, Evaluate, and Advance Origin of Life Research"

Jordan Okie (Univ. of New Mexico)
Advisors: Everett Shock (Exobiology: Early Evolution of Life and the Biosphere, Arizona State University) and Tori Hoehler (NAI, NASA Ames Team)
Topic: "Thermodynamic and Kinetic Constraints on Metabolic Diversity: Quantifying the Biogeochemical Niche Space of Life"

More information about the NPP can be found at

Source: NAI Newsletter

May 12-13, 2011

A two-day workshop using NAI remote communications tools will be held on May 12th and 13th, 2011. Organized by Chris Dupont of the J. Craig Venter Institute, along with John Peters and Ariel Anbar, leaders of the Montana State University and Arizona State University NAI teams, respectively.

Anticipated presentation topics include:

* Spatial and temporal dynamics of ocean redox chemistry
* Molecular biomarkers: biological role and usage as a proxy
* The evolution of phytoplankton
* The last universal common ancestor
* Applications of synthetic biology in paleobiology
* Modern day analogs of ancient environments
* The evolution of metabolic pathways

The workshop will consist of talks and discussion. Each presentation will allow ample time for questions and answers afterwards. Although talks will be recorded and posted online at, we encourage researchers to attend in real time to engage in what we expect will be a lively exchange of ideas during the workshop.

While many of the speakers have been confirmed, time has been set aside for four to six shorter contributed talks. Travel and hotel costs will be covered for those giving contributed talks. In addition, it is anticipated that funds for several more travel grants will be available. If interested in attending or giving a contributed talk, please email Chris Dupont ( your contact information and an abstract or reason for attending. Selection of talks and travel grants will begin April 1st. Preference will be given to younger scientists.

Workshop Organizing Committee

* Chris Dupont, J. Craig Venter Institute
* Ariel Anbar, Arizona State University
* John Peters, Montana State University

For more information and participation instructions, visit:

Source: NAI Newsletter

Celebrating the International Year of Chemistry, The Future of Women in Chemistry and Science was a virtual conference featuring women from across the spectrum of careers in science sharing insights on such topics as how to understand GenY, mentorship, work-life balance, and how to attract women into science. Sixty women participated in this 60 minute presentation sponsored by Dow Chemical and Scientific American. NAI affiliates Felisa Wolfe-Simon, Linda McGown, and Catherine Drennan participated.

For more information and to view the presentations:

Source: NAI Newsletter

Date/Time: Monday, March 28, 2011 11:00AM Pacific
Presenter: George Cody (Carnegie Institution of Washington)


Primitive bodies in the Solar System contain relatively large quantities of refractory organic macromolecular material. A lack of consensus exists as to the ultimate origin of these extraterrestrial organic solids stemming largely from the fact that throughout the Galaxy there exist many regions were extensive organo-synthesis occurs. Origins theories span from the lowest temperatures in the Interstellar Medium up to 1000 K in the inner Solar System. The best constraint on the origin of refractory organic solids is obtained by detailed studies of the organic material directly. Using advanced spectroscopic techniques we have identified a plausible source for these organic solids and show that the organic solids in both comets and carbonaceous chondrites share a common origin. The broader implications of these results, both in terms of our understanding of the early history of primitive Solar System objects and the origin of life on Earth, will be discussed.

For more information and participation instructions:

Source: NAI Newsletter

Dear Colleague:

This is the seventh newsletter to the community regarding the planetary science decadal survey.

The report has now been released. You can download it (all 412 pages!) on the web at:

The mission studies that were performed in support of the decadal survey can also be downloaded at:

The report describes an exciting program of planetary exploration for the decade 2013-2022, all of it derived from community inputs. Here are some of the highlights:

* Increased R&A funding

* A robust program of technology development for planetary exploration

* Continuation of the Discovery program of PI-led missions

* Two more New Frontiers missions, to be drawn from a list of seven exciting candidates

* Prioritized flagship missions that would begin the process of returning samples from Mars, explore a likely ocean on Europa, and carry out the first in-depth study of an Ice Giant planet.

April 1-2, 2011

A two-day symposium using NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) remote communications tools, on "The Ribosome: Structure, Function & Evolution," will be held on April 1-2, 2011. Real-time participation requires only an internet connection and is available to interested scientists from around the world. A chat area will be hosted by graduate students and post docs of Georgia Tech's Ribo Evo Center, to facilitate remote interaction during the symposium. More details, including connection and registration information, is available at the meeting website given below.

The 2011 Suddath Symposium on the Ribosome at Georgia Tech brings together researchers who are exploring various aspects of ribosome structure and function. The ribosome is a molecular machine that is responsible for protein synthesis in all living cells. This indispensable component of life, which contains both RNA and proteins, can be viewed as a molecular fossil. That is, the comparison of ribosomal RNA and proteins from distantly related organisms suggests that the origins and evolution of protein synthesis remain imprinted in present day ribosomes, providing a "rewindable" molecular recording of early evolution that appears to go all the way back to the origin of life.

Because the ribosome is central to the biochemistry of all life, it is a major target for drug development. For example, the mode of action of many antibiotics is to inhibit translation or cause bacterial ribosome to make mistakes during protein synthesis. Due to differences between bacterial and eukaryotic ribosomes, the result of billions of years of divergent evolution, drugs can be highly effective against bacterial ribosomes without causing appreciable side effects in human cells. Thus, studies of ribosome structure, function and evolution have scientific implications ranging from understanding the origin and early evolution of life to the development of novel pharmaceuticals.

For more information and participation instructions, visit:

Dear Colleagues:

As many of you know, the Society's journal, Gravitational and Space Biology, is undergoing a series of changes to become a completely electronic, Open Journal, and the September issue will be the first in the new format. One substantial change is that the journal will now accept the submission of manuscripts continuously. There will still be occasional time-delimited calls for issue-specific materials (such as the extended meeting abstracts) but all submissions, of any length, can be submitted for consideration and review at any time. Manuscripts will be published as space permits, in the order of acceptance.

For the time being, submissions can be made through the ASGSB web site using the same formatting template provided for the extended abstracts; however the length need not be limited to two pages.

As always, the main criteria for publication will be that the research presented is original and of significant interest to the community of gravitational and space biologists. All manuscripts will be peer reviewed.

Again, many thanks for your patience as we make this transition.
Below I have compiled a set of the most frequently asked questions to come across my desk in the past few months, but if you have any others, please do not hesitate to ask.

Anna-Lisa Paul
Editor, Gravitational and Space Biology

Frequently Asked Questions:

Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program solicits proposals for investigations focused on exploring the Earth's extreme environments in order to develop a sound technical and scientific basis to conduct astrobiological research on other solar system bodies. The ASTEP program is a science-driven exploration program that is expected to result in new science and operational/technological capabilities to enable the next generation of planetary exploration. A unique feature that is central to the ASTEP program is the use of terrestrial field campaigns to further science and technology and NASA,s exploration capabilities.

This amendment delays the proposal due date for C.20 Astrobiology Science And Technology For Exploring Planets. Programmatic schedule conflicts at NASA Headquarters have postponed the ASTEP peer review and hence the date when SMD must have Notices of Intent (NOI) proposals. A corresponding deferral of the ASTEP due dates will provide the community additional time to prepare proposals. The due date for ASTEP NOIs has been changed to Friday, July 22, 2011. The due date for ASTEP proposals has been changed to Friday, September 16, 2011. Table 2 and Table 3 of the Summary of Solicitation for this NRA have been updated to reflect this change.

On or about March 18, 2011, this Amendment to the NASA Research Announcement "Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2011" (NNH11ZDA001N) will be posted on the NASA research opportunity homepage at (select Solicitations 0/00 then Open Solicitations 0/00 then ,NNH11ZDA001N 0/00). You can now track amendments, clarifications and corrections to ROSES and subscribe to an RSS feed at:

Questions concerning ASTEP may be addressed to, Mary Voytek Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546-0001; Telephone: (202) 358-1577; Email:

We are now accepting applications to the NAI-sponsored Astrobiology Research Focus Group Workshop: an intensive three-day training workshop for early career astrobiologists. The goal of this workshop is to build collaborative proposal writing & research skills in the next generation of astrobiology scientists.

Through the course of the workshop, participants create an original proposal on a topic relevant to the current state of astrobiology research, which must be presented to a body of peers. Participants are encouraged to use the workshop as a forum for exploring creative and original research topics.

The 2009 and 2010 workshops produced several original research ideas. Highlights include: work leading to a successfully funded research grant through the NAI director's discretionary fund and an internationally recognized space policy paper proposing a METI protocol for messaging extraterrestrial intelligence.

New this year, we will be hosting an intimate NASA proposal writing workshop that will be led by Dr. Michael New from NASA headquarters.

Also new this year, we will unveil the details of the Young Investigator's Award: a new award being developed to provide support to research ideas developed at RFG.

Please visit our website to apply today and apply!

Food & Lodging for this workshop is covered for all accepted participants as is travel from Bozeman, MT to El Western Resort in Ennis, MT.

Applications will be open until April 8th, 2011!

if you have any questions please e-mail rfgw11@

Annual Meeting of the AOGS (Asia-Oceania Geosciences Society)
Taipei, Taiwan August 8-12, 2011
Abstract deadline: March 15, 2011

This session invites solicited, contributed, and poster presentations addressing:

(1) conditions on the early Earth that may have been necessary for the origin of life.

(2) subsequent events and conditions that may have contributed to the evolution of organisms and the development of Earth's climate.

(3) biological & geochemical characterization of extreme environments.

(4) habitability of extraterrestrial atmospheres, surfaces & interiors.

(5) methods or technological approaches for detecting biosignatures.

Contact: Dr. Louise Prockter (Johns Hopkins University, United States)