2013 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2012 – AUG 2013

EPO Activity: Student-Teacher Astrobiology Researchers (STARS)

Project Progress

In summer 2013, 7 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 and NASA scientists to learn about many of the different aspects of research in Astrobiology. The STARs 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). 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 National Air and Space Museum and the laboratories of Carnegie NAI team members in Washington DC.

Summer STARs 2013 teachers and students with Carnegie scientist Larry Nittler

Summer STARs 2013 student practices aseptic technique