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  1. Recap of the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon)

    Group photo of the participants at the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference that took place June 4-7, 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. Image credit: AbGradCon Image credit: None
    Group photo of the participants at the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference that took place June 4-7, 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. Image credit: AbGradCon

    The 14th Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) was successfully held from June 4-7, 2018 at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta, Georgia, with 96 participants presenting 72 posters and 23 oral presentations Oral presentations were streamed via SAGANLive and are available at

    The graduate student and postdoctoral fellow attendees hailed from 49 institutions and 9 different countries (Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom, and United States). In addition to the scientific program, the attendees gathered for social activities each night and an educational field trip to the Georgia Aquarium the last morning of the conference, which included a lecture on research being conducted at the aquarium. The attendees also took part in an outreach event that attracted more than 200 members of the public, acting as science ambassadors during a 1.5 hour interactive session. Special presentations included Dr. Larry DeLucas, a former astronaut and biochemist, Dr. Shawn McGlynn, a former AbGradCon graduate and geobiologist at ELSI, Dr. Melissa Kirven-Brooks, staff scientist at NAI Central, and a virtual meeting with Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman for an informational session about the Astrobiology Primer 3.0. Dr. Frank Rosenzweig, professor of biology and the Principal Investigator of the NAI CAN7 Georgia Tech team, was the closing dinner keynote speaker.

    AbGradCon was preceded by the Proposal Writing Retreat (PWR) during which 25 participants took part in an intensive three-day collaborative science proposal writing experience in northern Georgia. Working in teams, participants were asked to respond to a ROSES solicitation in full, including both the scientific proposal and all auxiliary documents, including relevance statements, data management plans, etc. The 8 submitted proposals were then peer reviewed and discussed in a mock panel evaluation. This year’s winning proposal was written by Elle Chimiak (Caltech), Mojhgan Haghnegahdar (UCLA), and Tyler Roche (Georgia Tech) and was entitled “Constraining Polyol Synthesis on Meteorites with Site-Specific δ13C: an Experimental and Theoretical Study.”

    The inaugural Maggie C. Turnbull Early Career Service Award, sponsored by the Berkeley SETI Research Center in honor of Maggie Turnbull, was created to recognize individuals who exemplify the spirit of service within the early career astrobiology community. Ten nominations were received and the winner was selected through community voting. More than 300 votes were collected within a week of the nominations. The Maggie C. Turnbull Early Career Service Award was awarded to Dr. Rebecca Rapf and presented at the closing dinner of AbGradCon.

    The conference was made possible with generous support from the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), John Templeton Foundation, Simons Foundation, ACS Earth and Space Chemistry, Nature Publishing Group, Berkeley SETI Research Center, Georgia Tech Astrobiology, Georgia Tech College of Sciences, and Georgia Tech Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology. This financial support makes this unique event possible, providing an excellent opportunity for early career astrobiologists to learn from each other, create new collaborations, increase their breadth of knowledge in an inherently multidisciplinary field, and improve their writing and presentation skills.

    To view recordings from AbGradCon 2018, visit:,