2011 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: Summer Student-Teacher Astrobiology Researchers (STARS)

Project Progress

In summer 2011, one science teacher from a local high school and 5 rising high school juniors and seniors from high-minority, urban schools in Washington DC formed a team to conduct authentic scientific research on the question ‘What Organisms are Living in Extreme Environments Around Me?’ The research took place at the teaching laboratory in Carnegie’s Administration building in Washington DC and was guided by staff of the Carnegie Academy for Science Education. During the 6-week program, the STARs team met regularly with Carnegie scientists to learn about many of the different aspects of research in Astrobiology. In addition, the team learned how to design an investigation, how to plan an expedition and to collect samples aseptically, how to use the tools and techniques of microbiology, how to manage data and much more. The STARs team designed their own expedition to ‘Planet Carnegie’, devised protocols for sample collection, collected samples and analyzed their microbial composition. This research experience culminated in an oral presentation of results to an audience of peers (including Carnegie scientists). The teacher is now applying the skills learned to guide other students to conduct original research for senior projects.

Students were paid as part of the DC Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program and considerable emphasis was also placed on the development of appropriate workplace skills and behaviors as well career guidance and the process for college applications. Opportunities in STEM careers in general as well as within NASA in particular were highlighted. Field trips were to the James Webb Space Telescope facility, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and to the National Air and Space Museum.

Members of the DC Summer STARS team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. The visit was part of the team’s exploration of the field of Astrobiology and potential NASA careers.

Members of the DC Summer STARs team visit the James Webb Space Telescope facility. The visit was part of the team’s exploration of the field of Astrobiology and potential careers in the space sciences.