NAI NewsletterMay 12, 2015
May 12, 2015 Issue
- NASA Extends Deadline for NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Applications
- New NASA Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair Announced
- NASA’s NExSS Coalition to Lead Search for Life on Distant Worlds
- Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon2015) Updates
- Lunar and Small Bodies Graduate Conference (LunGradCon2015)
- International Astronomical Union (IAU) Focus Meeting: Bridging Laboratory Astrophysics and Astronomy, August 3 – 5, 2015
- Nathalie Cabrol TED Talk: How Mars Might Hold the Secret to the Origin of Life
- FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond at ComiCon and now on Facebook!
RECENTLY PUBLISHED RESEARCH
- Algae Fitness and Multicellular Life
- Discovering Missing Body Parts of Ancient Fossils
- Report on Contamination Considerations for Mars 2020
- Viruses Help Microbial Hosts Cope With Life at the Extremes
- There and Back Again: Biofilm Specializaton
- Diverse Methane Sources in Shallow Alaskan Lakes
- Decomposing Oxalic Acid
CAREER, EMPLOYMENT, & FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
- Principal Investigator or Associate Principal Investigator Opportunity at The Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology
- Templeton Origins Funding Opportunity (FfAME)
- The Forum for New Leaders in Space Science
- Ph.D Researcher Opportunity in Planet Formation at University of Chicago
- Student Opportunity: Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship 2015
- Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) International Top Young Fellowship (ITYF)
- Simons Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Announce 2016 Faculty Scholars Competition
NASA Extends Deadline for NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Applications
Application Deadline Extended to July 10, 2015
NASA seeks a new Director for the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). The ideal candidate will be an internationally recognized scientist with proven experience in leading or managing large interdisciplinary research programs or projects, possessed with a vision for leading the Institute into the future. Applicants for this position should have a broad scientific perspective on astrobiology, experience in conducting interdisciplinary scientific research, and demonstrated skills needed to harness the strengths of disparate research communities towards a greater goal. S/he should understand how to grow a research endeavor and respond to changing budget climates while focusing on maximizing the scientific return on NASA’s investments in astrobiology. S/he should have experience in leading a diverse staff ranging from established scientists to support personnel, resource planning, and executing budgets and schedules. S/he should be comfortable with modern information technologies and distributed research teams. NASA is particularly interested in applicants who will find ways to infuse astrobiology into NASA flight missions.
The NAI Director is both the senior scientific officer and chief operating officer of the NAI. The Director coordinates scientific activities of the Institute’s member teams and is responsible and held accountable for all operational aspects of the NAI, including the administration of personnel, budget and NASA policies. The Director will lead the NAI in fulfilling its mission to perform, support, and catalyze collaborative interdisciplinary astrobiology research; train the next generation of astrobiologists; provide scientific and technical leadership for astrobiology space mission investigations; develop new information technology approaches for collaborations among widely distributed investigators; and support K-12 education and public outreach programs.
Established in 1998 as part of NASA’s Astrobiology Program, the NAI is a virtual, distributed organization of competitively-selected teams that conduct and integrate astrobiology research and training programs in concert with the national and international science communities. The Institute has 12 teams including ~600 researchers distributed across ~100 organizations as well as 13 international partner organizations. Headquartered at NASA Ames Research Center in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, the NAI links researchers across the US and around the globe using modern information technologies.
The NAI serves a vital role in advancing the goals of the larger NASA Astrobiology Program, with a focus on seeking the answers to these fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?
U.S. citizenship is required for the NAI Director.
Interested individuals should apply at: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/393518700. You can also go to USAJobs at https://www.usajobs.gov/. In the keyword search box, type vacancy number “AR15S0001”. Select “Director, NASA Astrobiology Institute”, then click “Apply Online”.
New NASA Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair AnnouncedNathaniel Comfort of the Johns Hopkins Department of the History of Medicine. Credit: Johns Hopkins
Historian of science, Nathaniel Comfort, will begin on October 1, 2015 as the third Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology in the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress. He will be in residence for twelve months. As Astrobiology Chair, Comfort will use the Library’s collections to examine the history of the genomic revolution in origin-of-life research.
The Astrobiology Chair at the Kluge Center is the result of collaboration between the NASA Astrobiology Program and the Library of Congress and is named for Baruch “Barry” Blumberg, the late Kluge Center Scholars Council member, Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
The official announcement from the Library of Congress can be viewed at: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2015/15-055.html
To learn more about Astrobiology at NASA visit: https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/
To learn about NASA’s Astrobiology Institute visit:
For information about the Kluge Center visit www.loc.gov/kluge/
NASA’s NExSS Coalition to Lead Search for Life on Distant Worlds
NASA is bringing together experts spanning a variety of scientific fields for an unprecedented initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside our solar system.
The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or “NExSS”, hopes to better understand the various components of an exoplanet, as well as how the planet, stars, and neighbor planets interact to support life.
“This interdisciplinary endeavor connects top research teams and provides a synthesized approach in the search for planets with the greatest potential for signs of life,” says Jim Green, NASA’s Director of Planetary Science. “The hunt for exoplanets is not only a priority for astronomers, it’s of keen interest to planetary and climate scientists as well.”
Click here to read the entire article.
Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon2015) Updates
The Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon2015) will be held in Chicago, Illinois, on June 15–19, 2015. The Preliminary Program has been posted to the AbSciCon website. There are also several key dates coming up soon. The deadline for hotel reservations at the group rate is May 15, and the deadline for registration at the reduced rate is May 18.
Several additional activities to be aware of:
Sunday, June 14: Online Learning Workshop – An Afternoon of Exploration: The Future of Science Education, 12:30 – 4:30pm
The presenters are: President’s Professor Ariel Anbar & Exploration Architect Lev Horodyskyj, School of Earth and Space Exploration at ASU. Click here to register for free.
Sunday, June 14: Astrobiology Research Data Management Workshop, 1:00 – 5:00pm
In the last decade the amount of data created, collected, processed, and analyzed during the research process has increased enormously. Given that the lifespan of research data reaches beyond the life of the projects themselves, research data management (preservation, sharing, access, reuse, synthesis) is critical. Effective management of data requires cyberinfrastructure, policies and standards for metadata, interoperability, knowledge discovery, and a supportive scientific community.
This interdisciplinary workshop brings together astrobiology scholars to discuss the issues on research data management, metadata standards and interoperability, the existing data repositories in various domains/disciplines, and best practices. Click here to register for free. For questions contact Estelle Dodson
Monday, June 15: FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond Regional Heat: 7:30 p.m. Grand Ballroom
FameLab is a fun-filled day of competition, coaching, and camaraderie that’s all about communicating! It’s something like American Idol for scientists — you give a three-minute PowerPoint-free talk to a panel of judges, and they give you constructive feedback. There’s a communication training workshop as well, so unlike American Idol, everyone wins. Visit the FameLab Website to learn more and to register to compete.
Monday – Tuesday, June 15 – 16, NASA Social Media Event
NASA is inviting 20 of its social media followers to attend a NASA Social Event to have the opportunity to:
- Take part in the AbSciCon, attend scientist talks, and visit a poster hall and speak directly to scientists about their research.
- Cheer on participants in FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond.
- Interact with NASA and other scientists on a broad range of topics, such as the exploration of Mars, the discovery of alien worlds, and searching for clues to the origin and evolution of life on our own planet.
- Meet fellow science enthusiasts who are active on social media.
To find out more about this event and to register, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/abscicon-social
Lunar and Small Bodies Graduate Conference (LunGradCon2015)
Registration is now open for the 6th Annual Lunar and Small Bodies Graduate Conference (LunGradCon 2015) to be held on Monday, July 20, 2015 at the NASA Ames Research Center, preceding the NASA Exploration Science Forum (ESF). With the expanded interests of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI), the scope of this year’s LunGradCon is expanded to include both lunar and small bodies science. LunGradCon provides an opportunity for grad students and early-career postdocs to present their research on lunar and small body science in a low-stress, friendly environment, being critiqued only by their peers. In addition to oral presentations, the conference presents opportunities for professional development and networking with fellow grad students and postdocs, as well as senior members of SSERVI. A limited amount of funding will be provided for travel and lodging costs. The deadline for registration and abstract submission is June 5th 2015, 11:59 PM PDT. For more details, please visit: http://impact.colorado.edu/lungradcon/2015/ or email any questions to: email@example.com.
International Astronomical Union (IAU) Focus Meeting: Bridging Laboratory Astrophysics and Astronomy, August 3 – 5, 2015
The upcoming IAU General Assembly will be held in Hawaii in close coordination with the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The FM 12 Focus Meeting aims to help bridge Laboratory Astrophysics and Astrochemistry with Astronomy by bringing together expert data providers and data users of laboratory and astronomical data. This is a truly multidisciplinary meeting that will bring together astronomers with theoretical and experimental chemists and physicists to discuss the state-of-the-art research in their respective disciplines and how their combined expertise can address important open questions in astronomy and astrophysics. For more information, visit: http://astronomy2015.org/focus_meeting_12
Nathalie Cabrol TED Talk: How Mars Might Hold the Secret to the Origin of LifeNathalie A. Cabrol diving and sampling in the Licancabur lake at 5,917 m elevation in the volcano’s crater. Photo Credit: The High Lakes Project: The SETI Institute Carl Sagan Center/NASA Ames/ NAI
Astrobiologist Nathalie Cabrol recently spoke about her work in remote field sites, including high-altitude lakes in the Andes, at the TED2015 conference. In her talk, Cabrol discusses how this work could help scientists search for signs of life on Mars.
Cabrol’s TED Talk, “Nathalie Cabrol: How Mars might hold the secret to the origin of life,” is now available to watch from TED.com by clicking here.
FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond at ComiCon and now on Facebook!
Calling all early career scientists: Passionate about science? Love to Communicate. . .or want to learn how? Join us at Phoenix ComiCon on May 30th for the 4th regional heat of FameLab USA’s Season 3!
FameLab is a fun-filled day of competition, coaching, and camaraderie that’s all about science communication. You craft a 3-minute, powerpoint-free talk on your research or a related topic and deliver it in a supportive environment to judges who give only constructive feedback. No slides, no charts—just the power of words and any prop you can hold in your hands. The heart of the whole thing is a workshop conducted by communication professionals to help you enrich your skills. Everyone wins!
For all info about the Phoenix competition, visit: http://famelab-eeb.arc.nasa.gov/competitions/season3-phx2015/, or email Daniella Scalice with any questions.FameLab USA Facebook Page
FameLab: Exploring Earth and Beyond, the critically-acclaimed, NASA-sponsored, science communication competition, has just launched its Facebook page. Help spread the word by “liking” their page, and stick around to browse through their library of photos and videos of fantastic talks from three seasons of this great program.
Visit the FameLab, Exploring Earth and Beyond website at: http://famelab-eeb.arc.nasa.gov/
RECENTLY PUBLISHED RESEARCH
Algae Fitness and Multicellular LifeResearchers subjected populations of Pleodorina starrii to selective pressures in mixed environments and studied their response. Above is a micrograph of Pleodorina starrii. Image Credit: © Matthew D. Herron, University of Arizona
By studying colonies of volvocine green algae, astrobiologists have uncovered new clues about how cells gained the ability to differentiate into functional types, a critical step in the evolution of multicellular organisms.
The paper, “Fitness trade-offs and developmental constraints in the evolution of soma: an experimental study in a volvocine alga,” was published in the journal Evolutionary Ecology Research.
This work was supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
Source: [Evolutionary Ecology Research]
Discovering Missing Body Parts of Ancient FossilsDickinsonia fossil from Nilpena, South Australia. Black arrow points to lifted portion of the specimen and is pointed in the direction the waves would have moved during the Ediacaran. Credit: Droser Lab, UC Riverside.
Scientist supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute have discovered that certain specimens of fossil Dickinsonia appear incomplete because they were lifted from the sea floor by ancient ocean currents, allowing sand to fill in the gap. The results suggest that Dickinsonia was mobile and not attached to the sea floor.
The study, “Dickinsonia liftoff: Evidence of current derived morphologies,” was published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.
Source: [UC Riverside]
Report on Contamination Considerations for Mars 2020
Researchers at NASA are currently hard at work on the proposed Mars 2020 rover, which will expand upon previous missions to help determine Mars’ potential habitability, both past and present. One task the rover might face is to collect and cache scientific samples that could one day be returned to Earth for further study.
Protecting such samples from contamination has been identified as an important and complex issue by the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), and was the subject of an independent investigation by the Mars 2020 Organic Contamination Panel (OCP).
In 2014, the OCP convened to evaluate and recommend sample contamination requirements for the proposed Mars 2020 mission. The resulting report, “Planning Considerations Related to the Organic Contamination of Martian Samples and Implications for the Mars 2020 Rover,” was published in the journal Astrobiology and is available online.
Viruses Help Microbial Hosts Cope With Life at the ExtremesA view of a hydrothermal vent at the Main Endeavour Field on the Juan de Fuca Ridge, snapped from the submersible Alvin. Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
A new study reveals that viruses lend a surprisingly helpful hand to microbes eking out a living near deep-sea hydrothermal vents. When they infect the vent’s resident bacteria and archaea, the viruses mix and match the single-celled creatures’ genes. As a result, the microbes can benefit from possessing a wide range of genes in a way that broadens their repertoire of responses to the quick-changing, harsh conditions of the vent environment.
There and Back Again: Biofilm SpecializatonMixed biofilm. Credit: Cooper Lab, Vaughn Cooper, University of New Hampshire
A new study is helping astrobiologists understand how bacteria adapt to environmental conditions during infections. The researchers paired experimental evolution and modern sequencing techniques to study adaptations in biofilm bacteria when recovering from pathogen infection.
The study, “There and back again: consequences of biofilm specialization under selection for dispersal,” was published in the journal Frontiers in Genetics
This research was supported in part by the NASA Astrobiology Institute.
Source: [Frontiers in Genetics]
Diverse Methane Sources in Shallow Alaskan LakesAn investigator is having a closer look at an open water region of Sukok Lake. Credit: NASA JPL, Icy Worlds 2011 Annual Report
Astrobiologists studying ecological changes in shallow lakes on the North Slope of Alaska have discovered diverse sources of methane in lake sediments. The study shows that methane can arise from sources deep in the Earth or from biological communities that inhabit sediments on the lake floor.
Importantly, the research also reveals that rising global temperatures may result in increasing production of this potential greenhouse gas by methane-generating microbes. The results of the five-year study are an important step toward understanding how different methane sources in close proximity could respond to ecosystem change in the Alaskan arctic.
The study, “Methane sources in arctic thermokarst lake sediments on the North Slope of Alaska,” was published in the journal Geobiology.
Source: [Desert Research Institute]
Decomposing Oxalic AcidBall and stick model of the oxalic acid molecule. Credit: Ben Mills and Jynto, Wikimedia Commons
A new study is helping astrobiologists understand whether or not the decomposition of oxalic acid could act as a source of C-O-H in petrologic experiments. The team studied how oxalic acid decomposes in oxidizing, reducing and unbuffered solutions at temperatures up to 800 °C.
The study could provide insight into how compounds and chemical elements are altered and made available for life on terrestrial planets.
The paper, “In-situ characterization of oxalic acid breakdown at elevated P and T: Implications for organic C-O-H fluid sources in petrologic experiments,” was published in the journal American Mineralogist.
This work was funded by the Astrobiology Science & Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) element of the Astrobiology Program and NASA’s Cosmochemistry program. Additional support came from the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Energy (DOE).
Source: [American Mineralogist]
CAREERS, EMPLOYMENT, & FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
Principal Investigator or Associate Principal Investigator Opportunity at The Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology
Application Deadline: June 30, 2015
ELSI seeks an established, collegial, and enthusiastic scientist to carry out original research work, cultivate young scientists, and contribute to the development of our institute. It is seeking applications from junior and mid-career scientists who are able to commit 6-12 months/year working at ELSI in Tokyo.
Scientific fields related to research themes pursued at ELSI include:
- Formation of the Earth
- Early Earth environment and evolution
- Deep Earth properties and dynamics
- Solar system exploration
- Formation and characterization of exoplanets
- Abiotic chemical evolution
- Origin of Life
- Early biological evolution
- Bacterial ecology
- High performance computing
1) A Doctoral degree in a related field of study.
2) Sufficient experience to oversee post-doctoral level researchers.
3) Willingness to contribute to institutional management.
For all information regarding this opportunity, visit: http://www.elsi.jp/en/about/recruitment/public-offering-positions/2015/03/20150323.html
Templeton Origins Funding Opportunity (FfAME)
Pre-proposal Deadline: May 29, 2015. Late pre-proposals WILL be considered, if resources are available.
The Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution (FfAME) is running a program that will award up to (US) $4.5 million in grants and contracts to individuals and their institutions to execute projects that include experiments to resolve outstanding “paradoxes” that prevent progress towards understanding the origins of life in the universe. The funds are being made available through the John Templeton Foundation.
Go to http://templetonorigins.ffame.org for more information, and to submit a pre-proposal.
The Forum for New Leaders in Space Science
Application Deadline: May 29, 2015
The Space Studies Board of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council and the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences invite applications for the 2015–2016 Forum for New Leaders in Space Science.
The Forum’s 2015–2016 session will provide opportunities for a highly select group of young Earth and planetary scientists from the United States and China to discuss their research activities in an intimate and collegial environment at meetings to be held in Shanghai, China (9–10 October 2015) and Irvine, California (16–17 May 2016).
Details can be found at: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/SSB_086017.
Ph.D. Researcher Opportunity in Planet Formation at University of Chicago
Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Researcher to work on the chemical evolution of protoplanetary disks and primitive materials at the University of Chicago. The successful applicant will work directly with Professor Fred Ciesla and in collaboration with Professor Ted Bergin of the University of Michigan. The primary research tasks will focus on coupling the dynamical evolution of solids in protoplanetary disks with chemical evolution models to evaluate the histories of volatiles and organics during the early stages of planet formation.
The position is supported through the “Earths in Other Solar Systems” program, a multi-institutional astrobiology research consortium, funded through NASA’s Nexus for Exoplanet System Studies research initiative. The successful applicant will be a full member of the NExSS/EOS team and will participate in team meetings and collaborations. Details on the EOS project can be found at the team’s website: http://eos-nexus.org. Additional resources will be made available through the NSF INSPIRE program.
The work will be largely computational, requiring proficiency in numerical modeling. A Ph.D. in astronomy, astrophysics, or planetary sciences is required by the date of employment. The term of employment is initially for one year, but is renewable annually. The position will be based at the University of Chicago with Fred Ciesla, but will involve regular travel to the University of Michigan for collaborations and training with Ted Bergin and his group.
To apply, please send a cover letter, a CV, a brief statement of research interests, and the contact information for 3 people who are willing to provide recommendations in support of the application. Materials should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Informal inquiries are welcomed.
Student Opportunity: Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship 2015
Berkner Autumn Program 2015 (Undergraduate and Graduate Students)
– Application Deadline: June 5, 2015
The goal of the Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship is to provide promising undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to work in the area of civil space research policy in the nation’s capital, under the aegis of the National Research Council’s Space Science Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. The autumn program is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Candidate(s) selected for the summer and autumn programs will be contacted no later than 3 July, respectively. Additional information about the program, including application procedure, can be found at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/ssb_052239.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) International Top Young Fellowship (ITYF)
Application Deadline: June 19, 2015
The goal of Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (ISAS, JAXA) is to advance space science in Japan. The JAXA International Top Young Fellowship (ITYF) was established as a prestigious fellowship program designed to attract outstanding, highly motivated, early-career researchers in any of the space science fields covered by ISAS to work in Japan for 3 (extendable to 5) years.
Applicants must have a Ph.D. or Doctoral degree in natural sciences or engineering (by the end of May 2015), or equivalent or higher qualifications, with less than 8 years of postdoctoral experience.
For more information and to apply, visit: http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/e/researchers/young-fellowship/appli.shtml
Simons Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Announce 2016 Faculty Scholars Competition
Application Deadline: July 28, 2015
The Simons Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are pleased to announce the Faculty Scholars Competition, a national competition for grants to outstanding early-career scientists.
The three philanthropies will award a total of $148 million over the program’s first five years, awarding up to 70 grants every two and a half to three years. The awards are intended for basic researchers and physician scientists who have already demonstrated significant research accomplishments and show potential to make unique and important contributions to their fields.
The Faculty Scholars Competition marks the first time that HHMI, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Simons Foundation have formally undertaken an initiative together. For more information, go to https://www.simonsfoundation.org.
May 14 – Abstract Submission Deadline for 78th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society http://metsoc2015.ssl.berkeley.edu/
May 15 – Deadline for hotel reservations at the group rate for the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2015 http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2015/
May 18 – Deadline for registration at the reduced rate for the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2015 http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2015/
May 29 – Application Deadline for the Forum for New Leaders in Space Science http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/SSB_086017
May 31 – Abstract Submission Deadline for the 2nd Symposium of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR 2015): Water and Life in the Universe http://cosparbrazil2015.org/
May 31 – Application Deadline for the Gordon Research Conference on Origins of Solar Systems http://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?id=15842
May 31 – Abstract Submission Deadline for Life in a Cosmic Context – 5th Workshop of the Italian Astrobiology Society https://www.ict.inaf.it/indico/event/106/
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