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2011 Annual Science Report

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: Origins of Life Seminar Series

Project Progress

The weekly Origins of Life Seminar Series at RPI is a focal point for our Astrobiology community. As such, it serves multiple roles: it is a key component of our undergraduate curriculum, it provides opportunities for our students, postdocs and faculty to learn about the latest research from those engaged in it, and it also serves as a forum for our team to share ideas and discoveries. Finally, it provides a steady flow of interviewees for the series of Astrobiology segments recorded and broadcast by WAMC Northeast Public Radio (see separate section).

A total of 35 RPI undergraduates attended the seminar as part of their formal plan of study in academic year 2010/11. Each enrolled student selected a research topic on which he/she prepared and presented either a seminar talk or a poster presentation.

A total of eight invited talks on current research were presented in the academic year 2010/11:

RNA Oligomers on the Prebiotic Earth: Possible Environments and Processes”
Dr. John Delano (University at Albany)

“Titan as a Prebiotic Laboratory: Development of Complex Organics in an Abiotic Environment”
Dr. Mark Smith (University of Arizona)

“Oort Cloud Formation – the Role of the Sun’s Birth Cluster”
Dr. Hal Levison (Southwest Research Institute)

“Oxygen, Geostable Molecules and the Cloud Paradigm”
Dr. Roger Summons (MIT)

“Catching Shadows: Kepler’s Year-Two Transit Census”
Dr. Natalie Batalha (San Jose State University)

“Exploring the Potential of Apatite + Graphite Associations as Biosignatures in Precambrian Sedimentary Rocks”
Dr. Dominic Papineau (Boston College)

“The Best is yet to be: New Chemical Models of Stellar and Planetary Formation”
Dr. Eric Herbst (Ohio State University)

“Impact Experiments: Applications to Sugars Found in Space”
Dr. Nicolle Zellner (Albion College)

The seminar presentation by Natalie Batalha was attended by a class of high school students from East Greenbush Central School District, led by Marian Roohan, a science teacher and alumni of our Astrobiology Teachers Academy (see separate section).

A full list and schedule of all talks in our seminar series, dating back to its inception in 1998, with links to speaker web pages and on-line video recordings, can be found at