Conferences and Meetings: September 2011

Applications are currently being accepted for the Origin of Life Gordon Research Seminar (GRS). The Origin of Life GRS is a unique forum for graduate students, post-docs, and other scientists with comparable levels of experience and education to present and exchange new data and cutting edge ideas on origin of life research. The meeting will be held January 7th-8th at Hotel Galvez in Galveston TX, immediately preceding the Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference to be held January 8th - 13th at the same location. Participants in the Origin of Life Gordon Research Seminar are encouraged to participate in the associated Origin of Life Gordon Research Conference.

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Source: NAI newsletter

Join us for the next NAI Director's Seminar! Please RSVP if your site will be joining.

Date/Time: Monday, September 26, 2011 11:00AM Pacific

Presenter: David Deamer (University of California, Santa Cruz)

Abstract: Although the physical environment that fostered primitive cellular life is still largely unconstrained, we can be reasonably confident that liquid water was required, together with a source of organic compounds and energy to drive polymerization reactions. There must also have been a process by which the compounds were sufficiently concentrated to undergo physical and chemical interactions. We are exploring self-assembly processes and polymerization reactions of organic compounds in natural hydrothermal environments and related laboratory simulations. We have found that macromolecules such as nucleic acids and proteins are readily encapsulated in membranous boundaries during wet-dry cycles such as those that would occur at the edges of hydrothermal springs in volcanic environments. The resulting structures are referred to as protocells, in that they exhibit certain properties of living cells and are models of the kinds of encapsulated macromolecular systems that would have led toward the first forms of cellular life. We have also determined that RNA-like polymers can be synthesized non-enzymatically from ordered arrays of mononucleotides in lipid microenvironments. We are now extending this approach to template-directed synthesis of DNA and RNA in which lipid-assisted polymerization serves as a model of an early stage of evolution toward an RNA World.

For more information and participation instructions:

Source: NAI newsletter

The 2012 Gordon Research Conference on Origin of Life will take place at the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, TX from January 8-13, 2012. This unique interdisciplinary meeting includes chemists, biologists, geologists, astronomers, physicists as well as scientists in related disciplines interested in the origin, and early evolution of Life on Earth and its possible distribution throughout the universe. The 2012 conference will feature recent and cutting-edge results, and sessions will address attempts to fabricate life or life-like systems in the laboratory, the search for extra-solar Earth like planets, recent developments in our understanding of the early history of Earth, Mars, and Titan, prebiotic and organic chemistry on the early Earth and elsewhere in the solar system, and reconstruction of early life forms and genomes, among other exciting topics.

We encourage young scientists, including graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, to attend. Special efforts will be made to promote interactions between invited speakers and junior participants and we expect to be able to provide some financial support to facilitate the latter's participation. Applications for this meeting must be submitted by December 11, 2011. Please apply early, as we expect the meeting to become oversubscribed (full) before this deadline. More information, including afullconferenceprogram,can be found on the conference website:

Dear Colleague, I write to invite you to attend AbSciCon 2012 and to seek your participation in developing the meeting program. In the long tradition of AbSciCon, the Program Committee will rely on input from the astrobiology community in developing the program. We seek your nominations for session, symposium and workshop topics. Please refer to the meeting web page to nominate a session and to observe important deadlines. The deadline for session nominations is October 15, 2011. The call for abstracts is November 15. The abstract deadline is Jan 31, 2012. For further information, consult the AbSciCon Meeting Web Page:

Loren Williams
Professor & Director, Ribo Evo Center
School of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Georgia Tech
Important AbSciCon 2012 Timepoints

Sept 1, 2011 Call for Session Topics/Organizers
Nov 15, 2011 Call for Abstracts Jan 31, 2012 ABSTRACT DEADLINE
Mar 1, 2012 Conference Program posted
Mar 31, 2012 Pre-registration deadline
April 16-20, 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference 2012

The TDE Focus Group will host a Workshop at the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri (Galileo's House) in Florence (Italy), on September 12-14. Its main goal will be to discuss the submission of the proposals discussed in the previous Workshop in Madrid to either US or European Funding Opportunities.

Also it will be a good opportunity to exchange information face to face between the members of the Working Group.

We consider this meeting as critical to take advantage of upcoming funding opportunities, so please consider to join us in the wonderful city of Florence !!

Please the organizers would appreciate very much if you could send a notice of intention as soon as possible. You can send it to Javier Martin-Torres ( ).

Javier Martin-Torres
Michael Russell
Eugenio Simoncini

A case study of last year's Workshop without Walls on "Molecular Paleontology and Resurrection: Rewinding the Tape of Life." appears in the July 2011 issue of PLoS Biology. Authors include Betuel Arslan of the Georgia Tech team, Eric Boyd of the Montana State University team, and members of NAI Central.


The NASA Astrobiology Institute conducted two "Workshops Without Walls" during 2010 that enabled global scientific exchange--with no travel required. The second of these was on the topic "Molecular Paleontology and Resurrection: Rewinding the Tape of Life." Scientists from diverse disciplines and locations around the world were joined through an integrated suite of collaborative technologies to exchange information on the latest developments in this area of origin of life research. Through social media outlets and popular science blogs, participation in the workshop was broadened to include educators, science writers, and members of the general public. In total, over 560 people from 31 US states and 30 other nations were registered. Among the scientific disciplines represented were geochemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology and evolution, and microbial ecology. We present this workshop as a case study in how interdisciplinary collaborative research may be fostered, with substantial public engagement, without sustaining the deleterious environmental and economic impacts of travel.

For more information:

The organizing committee for the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) is now soliciting community input for session topics and session organizers. Proposals for session topics must be received by September 30, 2011.

AbSciCon 2012 will be hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology from April 16 - 20, 2012, in Atlanta, GA.

To submit session topics for AbSciCon and for further details on the conference, visit:

Save the Date: AbSciCon 2012

The next Astrobiology Science Conference will be held in Atlanta, GA from April 16-20, 2012. Sign up to receive conference updates at:

AbSciCon 2012 "Exploring Life: Past and Present, Near and Far" will address our current understanding of life, from processes at the molecular level to those that operate at planetary scales. Studying these aspects of life on Earth provides an essential platform to examine the potential for life within our solar system and beyond.

NAI StoryTeaching Seminar

Teachers trekking to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa stop to pose for the camera in a scene from the documentary Inspire Me: Africa.

On May 31, 2011, Brad McLain and Mike Marlow of the University of Colorado, Denver delivered the first Astrobiology Education and Training (AbET) Seminar, entitled StoryTeaching: An Exploration of the Importance of Story & Narrative in Science Learning.


Humans are natural storytellers. We describe our experiences in terms of story. We recount our history in terms of story. We learn new things and construct new understanding through the reframing of old stories and the forging of new ones. We even describe who we are--to ourselves and others--in terms of story. When applied to science learning and science communication, the concept of "story" represents a powerful framework for making STEM relevant, meaningful, and exciting. This talk will explore StoryTeaching as the intersection of two fields of study: (1) Science Identity Construction through Experiential Learning, and (2) the Narrative Study of Lives. We will discuss the formation, maintenance, and maturing of positive science identities in the face of an often science-hostile youth culture, and the significance of personal ownership and integration of STEM into an individual's sense of self though the processes of interpretation and meaning making inherent in story. StoryTeaching is currently a research topic and methodology used at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Resources from the seminar can be downloaded here: