Education and Outreach: September 2011

In 2011, and for the fourth consecutive year, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was chosen as one of 25 host institutions in the United States for the 2011 ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (BHSSC). The EMBHSSC is a free, academic program of The Harris Foundation, which takes an active role in shaping education in students entering grade 6,7, or 8. The program is named after Bernard A. Harris, MD, an accomplished NASA astronaut, physician and entrepreneur; Dr. Harris, the first African American to walk in space, plays an active role in the Summer Science Camp program and other programs for underserved youths.

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.

For more information please visit:

Source: NAI newsletter

Locations: New York Center for Astrobiology (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) and NASA Ames Research Center

The New York Center for Astrobiology expects to hire two postdoctoral researchers in the areas of observational astronomy and astrochemistry. The successful applicants will join an existing research program that seeks to identify important chemical pathways that lead from simple molecules in the interstellar medium to complex organic molecules in protoplanetary disks around newly-born stars and in primitive solar-system materials. The project represents a collaboration between researchers in the New York Center for Astrobiology (NYCA), based at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY, and the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC) in Mountain View, CA, led by Doug Whittet and Yvonne Pendleton, respectively. It is anticipated that one appointee will be based primarily at NYCA, the other primarily at ARC.

The duties of the appointees will be matched to their prior expertise and may include: acquisition and analysis of new astronomical observations at infrared and/or radio wavelengths; research with existing databases such as the Spitzer Heritage Archive; related astrophysical and/or astrochemical modeling; interpretation of results and preparation for publication in the refereed literature. Positions will be for one year initially, with anticipated renewal for a second year dependent on availability of funds.

The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) invites applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship with interests in the origin of Earth's water to work with the University of Hawai'i's NASA Astrobiology Institute lead team (see The UH lead team maintains an innovative and multi-disciplinary research environment linking astronomical, biological, microbiological, chemical, and geological sciences to investigate the origin, history, distribution and role of water as it relates to life in the universe. The program centers around interactions with an interdisciplinary group of postdoctoral fellows. We have a particular need for an individual interested in the origin of Earth's water, and, by analogy, terrestrial planetary volatiles. The work involves geological field work to sample primitive, deep-mantle-plume materials, preparation of samples of melt inclusions in olivines from Hawaiian and Icelandic basalts for isotopic measurements using the petrographic microscope, scanning electron microscope, and electron microprobe, and measurements of D/H ratios and hydrogen abundances in the melt inclusions using the UH Cameca ims 1280 ion microprobe. The Fellowship is for one year and may be renewable up to a total of 3 years assuming satisfactory progress and continued availability of funds. The fellow will receive a stipend of approximately $5,000 per month, a small relocation allowance and basic research costs.

The Institute for Astronomy (IfA) at the University of Hawaii (UH) invites applications for the Beatrice Watson Parrent Postdoctoral Fellowship. We seek researchers displaying significant promise in any field of astrophysics or solar physics, including observation, theory, and instrumentation. The term of the fellowship is for up to 3 years, starting around Fall 2012. The IfA has guaranteed access to the entire suite of observational facilities on the summits of Mauna Kea and Haleakala. The IfA is also the lead institution in the Pan-STARRS PS1 wide-field optical telescope, which is carrying out a multiyear synoptic survey mission. More information is available at

The successful candidate will undertake a program of independent research and participate in the academic and scientific life of the IfA. Applicants should demonstrate outstanding promise as a researcher, as reflected by their publications and their letters of recommendation. They should have completed a Ph.D. in astronomy, physics, or equivalent areas by the start date of employment. The Fellow will be provided an annual salary of approximately $64,500, a research budget of $15,000/year, and assistance with relocation expenses to Hawaii. The Fellow will also be able to apply for UH telescope time and have access to the Pan-STARRS PS1 telescope and UKIDSS survey data.

Inquiries: Dr. Fabio Bresolin,, 808-956-8306 (Oahu).

For more information:

Source: NAI newsletter

The Astrobiology Student Research Travel Awards offer research-related travel support for undergraduate, graduate students and early postdoctoral fellows. Applicants are encouraged to use these resources to circulate among two or more laboratories supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program (ASTEP, ASTID, Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology and the NAI), 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 pool of candidates for the NAI/APS 2011 competition was the largest we have ever experienced. Typically six to seven selections are made annually, however for 2011 twelve young investigators were selected for the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology.

Congratulations go to:

The InSPIRESS program at the University of Alabama-Huntsville is a spin-off of the highly successful JPL Planetary Science Summer School. InSPIRESS serves both high school and undergraduate students; science mentors are needed for the high school track only.

Since this coming school year's project will be to plan a mission to Titan, the program is seeking Titan scientists to mentor the 22 high school teams who will be participating in InSPIRESS. Following are details on the commitment:

* Two to three sessions with the student teams, about 30 minutes/week for a few weeks. Skype can be used, and/or email exchanges and phone calls. Science mentors are needed for the first two months of school (late August and into September) and then again in January/February with the new semester.

* Mentoring entails discussing a proper Titan science question and how to answer it. If the mentors wish to be more involved, that is most appreciated, but not required. An InSPIRESS Mentor Briefing document is available upon request.

Interested? Please contact

Michael "P.J." Benfield by Friday, August 19 at the latest.

Michael P.J. Benfield, Ph.D.
Deputy Center Director, Center for Modeling, Simulation, and Analysis
The University of Alabama in Huntsville
(256) 824-2976

The Planetary Group, Department of Astronomy, University of Maryland, College Park has an immediate post-doctoral position opening in infrared spectral data analysis from the Deep Impact prime mission to Tempel 1 (Jul. 2005) and the extended mission's flyby of comet Hartley 2 (EPOXI; Nov. 2010).

Successful applicants will join a team of researchers at UMD working with Deep Impact and EPOXI and a group of planetary scientists whose projects span from dynamical studies to observational programs and who hold major roles in several planetary missions.

Prospective researchers should have a strong background in surface and/or gaseous spectroscopy in addition to knowledge of and experience with small body research and/or remote sensing. Successful applicants are expected to be versatile, have a strong and broad interest in planetary science, and have relevant experience as thesis research or as other post-doctoral activities.

The position is open immediately. Starting dates in late 2011 are preferable. The University of Maryland is an Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action Employer. Women and minority candidates are encouraged to apply.

Full text of the job description and application procedure is on the AAS Job Register:

The next deadline to apply for a NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) fellowship is November 1, 2011.

These competitive one- to three-year appointments advance NASA's missions in space science, earth science, aeronautics, space operations, exploration systems, lunar science, and astrobiology.

Applicants must have a Ph.D. or equivalent degree in hand before beginning the fellowship, but may apply while completing the degree requirements. U. S. citizens and foreign nationals who hold Lawful Permanent Resident status or who are eligible for J-1 status as a Research Scholar may apply. An H-1B Visa status is not acceptable because the NPP is not an employment program.

Stipend rates for Postdoctoral Fellows start at $50,000 per year, with moderate supplements for high cost-of-living areas and for certain academic specialties. Funds are available for relocation expenses, up to a specified limit, and health insurance is available through the program. Fellows also receive $8,000 per appointment year to support travel to conferences, meetings, and other activities that directly support their research.

For further information about this opportunity and to apply online, visit:

Questions regarding this opportunity may be submitted by e-mail to

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: