2009 Annual Science Report

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

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 six research seminar talks were presented in Spring 2009: four by faculty investigators in our NAI team (Suzanne Baldwin, Tim Swindle, Bruce Watson and Doug Whittet) and two by external visiting speakers (Chris House from the Penn State NAI team, and Bruno Soffentino of Siena College). The remaining sessions were used for in-house discussion groups involving both students and other members of our NAI team, and for undergraduate student talks. A total of 32 RPI undergraduates attended the seminar as part of their formal plan of study (20 as a required component of the 4-credit course “Origins of Life: A Cosmic Perspective” – see separate section – and a further 12 as a 1-credit stand-alone course). Each enrolled student selected a research topic on which he/she prepared either a seminar talk or a term paper (16 opted for seminar presentations).