2010 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: EPO: Astrobiology Summer Program: Research Experience for Undergraduates

Project Progress

The Astrobiology Summer Program at Penn State is a research experience in astrobiology for undergraduates from around the United States. The program occurs at Penn State University for 10 weeks during the summer session. The students participate in independent research under the guidance of one or more astrobiologists, a field trip to NASA and astrobiology-related sites around Washington, D.C., weekly seminars, laboratory tours, stargazing opportunities, discussion group, and a research symposium.

In the summer of 2010 ten students participated in the program from ten different universities around the U.S. Universities included Reed College, University of Central Oklahoma, The Pennsylvania State University, Santa Barbara City College, Illinois State University, University of Connecticut, Brown University, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Purdue University, and Northern Arizona University. Research topics included Nitrous Oxide as a Greenhouse Gas in the Proterozoic, Rooting the Tree of Life, A Phylogenic Study on Ancient Halophilic Archaea, Caribbean Island Lizards Demonstrate Universal Evolutionary Concepts, Compound Specific Isotopic Differences for High-Producing Tropical Plant Species, Ancient DNA: 6 million Year Old Cyanobacteria, The Effect of Gaussian Integration over the Solar Zenith Angle on Early Mars Climate, and Biofilms: From Your Sink to the Stars.

The majority of the funding for this program comes from a grant from the National Science Foundation, which ended in 2010. We expect to continue with the program in summer 2011, but at a smaller scale (2-3 students).