2011 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: EPO: Astrobiology Summer Research Experiences 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 2011 five students participated in the program from four different universities around the U.S. Universities included Rutgers University, Grove City College, University of Louisville, and Cornell University. Research topics included Absorption of UV radiation in the early atmosphere, a sulfate-iron equilibrium in an early Earth simulation, and species formation in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

The majority of the funding for this program comes from a grant from the National Science Foundation, which ended in 2010. The main faculty advisor is on sabbatical in 2012, but we expect to continue with the program in summer 2013, but at a smaller scale (2-3 students).

One student was placed in a lab as part of a collaborative effort between the PA Space Grant Consortium and PSARC. We hope to continue this collaboration in future years and possibly expand to other NAI teams and Space Grant Consortium members.