Conferences and Meetings: 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

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

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

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:

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)