Education and Outreach: October 2009

Astrobiology Teachers Academy

NAI's New York Center for Astrobiology held its first Teachers Academy at RPI on July 13-16, 2009. Nine high school science teachers from four local school districts collaborated with six NAI scientists to learn about topics in astrobiology. The participants represent disciplines across the sciences: biology, chemistry, earth science, forensic science, and physics. The goal of the Academy was to develop a learning module infused with astrobiology and aligned with New York State standards and NASA Astrobiology Science Goals.

The teachers used science lectures, existing astrobiology curriculum materials, and consistent interaction with the scientists to develop their learning modules, which ranged in topic from the physiochemical limits to sustainable life, to colors of photosynthetic organisms on exoplanets, to nucleosynthesis of biologically-relevant elements. The teachers are implementing their modules in their classrooms this school year, and the Academy will be featured at the annual regional meeting of the Science Teachers Association of New York State in March, 2010. [Source: NASA Astrobiology]

This summer, sixteen teachers from around the world convened with NAI's team at Montana State University for a weeklong class called "Examining Life in Extreme Environments: Insights into Early Earth and Beyond." Students in the course gained an understanding of the relation of extreme environments to early earth, learned about the latest research conducted in these areas, and worked on how to teach and discuss these topics within their own classrooms.

Applications for the US to Australia Fellowship Program close on October 31st. The program offers fellowships of up to AU$25,000 to American researchers or students wishing to undertake advanced research or study in Australia. Through these Educational Fellowships, the Association encourages intellectual collaboration and innovation, building on the strong social and economic partnerships between Australia and the United States.

Fields of study/research supported by the fellowships:

* Medicine
* Life sciences (particularly in oceanography/marine sciences and stem cell research)
* Science
* Engineering
* Mining

General Requirements:

* Applicant's research or study must be at a graduate level or above.
* Proof of acceptance into an Australian educational institution is required.
* Applicant must be a citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
* The Fellowships are intended to support part of the costs of one year of research/study in Australia (applicants must submit a complete budget).
* Applicants should devote full time to their research or study.

Deadline: 31 October 2009

Further Information:

Please send inquiries & applications to:

In July a group of early-career astrobiologists (graduate students and postdocs) spent two days engaged in intensive brainstorming at the first ever Early-Career Astrobiology Research Focus Group (RFG). The goal of the RFG was to foster interdisciplinary collaborative work in a simulated proposal submission process. At the end of two days of grant writing, peer-reviewing, oral presentations and group discussions, the participants voted on the best proposals.

The RFG was an outstanding success, exceeding all expectations. The 30 participants covered the full range of specialties relevant to astrobiology, and represented 7 different countries across North and South America, Europe and Australia. Not only was the RFG successful in its original goal of strengthening interdisciplinary and international links between early-career astrobiologists (9 out of 10 participants thought that having participated in the RFG would definitely help them to work more effectively in an interdisciplinary way in the future) but as a result of the dedication and commitment shown by the participants, several highly original ideas for future research were generated. Over ninety per cent of the participants thought that the ideas that were produced would definitely (50%) or possibly (42%) affect the direction of their future research, and two-thirds of participants wanted to continue collaboration on their ideas.

The next application deadline for the NASA Postdoctoral Program is November 1, 2009. The program provides opportunities for Ph.D. scientists and engineers to perform research on problems largely of their own choosing, yet compatible with the research interests of NASA and the member teams of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The NAI currently supports the research of 10 such postdoctoral fellows in NAI labs. For more information see [Source: NAI Newsletter]