Education and Outreach: October 2012

For the past four years, early career scientists have organized a Research Focus Group (RFG), preceding the Astrobiology Graduate Student conference (AbGradCon) in which participants are grouped into interdisciplinary groups to develop original research projects, draft a written proposal, peer-review the proposals of other groups and then vote on the best proposals.

For 2012 the RFG was held at USC's Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island, CA in late August. The group selected the following proposals:

1st choice: Characterization of Residual Biosignatures in Arctic Glacial Environments: A Remote Sensing Study for Biosignature Detection on Mars and Icy Worlds
Group 8: Julia DeMarines, Ian Foster, Chester Harman, Shana Kendall, Afshin Khan

2nd choice: The Autocatalytic Generation of Amino Acid Homochirality under Planetary Atmospheres
Group 3: Michael Chaffin, Amanda Evans, Rebecca McCauley, Marika Tarasashvili

3rd choice: Microbial and geochemical characterization of soils interfacing with physicochemical extremes from the hyper-arid core of the Atacama Desert - a potential key to understanding the evolution and functionality of life in a Mars-analog environment
Group 7: Anthony Friedline, Graham Lau, Shannon Soucy, Madhan Tirumalai

Congratulations to the winning proposal teams!!

The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute announces the 2013 Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and solicits applications for fellowships to begin in the fall of 2013. The application deadline is Thursday, November 1, 2012.

The Sagan Fellowships will support outstanding recent postdoctoral scientists to conduct independent research that is broadly related to the science goals of the NASA Exoplanet Exploration program. The primary goal of missions within this program is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars. Sagan Fellowships are joined by two other NASA astrophysics theme-based fellowship programs: the Einstein Fellowship Program which supports the Physics of the Cosmos research, and the Hubble Fellowship Program which supports Cosmic Origins research.

For more information visit:

The Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund is pleased to announce the last 2012 Travel Grant application opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students pursuing studies in fields of space science and engineering.

The Travel Grants, in the amount of $500, enable student recipients to attend professional meetings to present their research. The Fall 2012 Travel Grant application deadline is October 15, 2012. Jerry Soffen, a biologist by training, led a distinguished career in NASA, including serving as the Project Scientist for Viking and as an architect for the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The Travel Grant continues Jerry's dedication to educating and involving future generations in space science and engineering pursuits. The electronic application materials and instructions are located on the Soffen Fund website:

Questions regarding the application or application process may be sent to:

This 5 week course beginning January 28th, 2013 at the University of Edinburgh will explore what we know about life's ability to live in extreme environments on the Earth. We will look at some of the missions to search for life in our own Solar System and on planets orbiting distant stars. We will discuss some of the extreme environments on the Earth that help us understand the limits of life and how life has adapted to cope with extremes. We will explore the possibility of intelligent alien life and some of the implications of its detection. The course will provide a foundation in astrobiology and introduce students to concepts in a diversity of scientific fields.

Visit: for all the course information.