The James P. Ferris Fellowship in Astrobiology

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute announced today a $480,000 gift from the Emily Landecker Foundation. The gift will establish the James P. Ferris Fellowship in Astrobiology, which will support graduate students in the School of Science pursuing research in the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. The fellowship is named in honor of Ferris, an emeritus professor of chemistry and chemical biology, currently a senior research professor, and a member of the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer. Click here for more.

Airborne scientists search distant stars for complex organic molecules

A Rensselaer-led Astrobiology team will be among the first to be granted access to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). During a series of nighttime flights on this airborne observatory, the team will make observations to search newly born stars for the presence of precursors to life. The scientists, led by Doug Whittet, director of the New York Center for Astrobiology at Rensselaer, will use the observatory’s infrared spectroscopic capabilities to search for a suite of molecules in clouds of dust and gas surrounding the stars. Their work is part of the first season, or cycle, of research to be performed aboard SOFIA, the largest airborne observatory in the world.  Click here for the full story.

The NASA Connection: Homecoming Event with video – Mars Curiosity Mission

One of the perks of having friends in high places is the “behind-the-scenes tour” and this past weekend, the Rensselaer community got a multimedia tour from some very well-placed friends: the Rensselaer School of Science Dean Laurie Leshin, and three Rensselaer alumni, all of whom are working on NASA’s Curiosity Rover mission, currently roving the surface of Mars…  Click here for more and for link to video of entire event.

To Mars, and beyond!

At 1:32 a.m. Eastern time today, the NASA rover Curiosity safely touched down on the surface of Mars after a journey of more than 300 million miles and a harrowing descent from orbit, complete with parachutes, rockets, and the perilous sky crane maneuver. As a member of the science team for Curiosity, Rensselaer Dean of Science Laurie Leshin traveled to California for the landing, and will be working with the team to analyze data from the rover. Leshin wrote about the importance of the mission, and the hope that it will engage young people in the pursuit of math and science, in an article that appeared in Sunday’s edition of the Albany Times Union.

Tenure-Track Faculty Position in Astrobiology at RPI

The School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seeks to hire a tenure-track faculty member in Astrobiology. Applicants should have research interests and expertise that synergize with on-going research activities in the New York Center for Astrobiology. Applications received by October 31, 2012 are assured fullest consideration. Click here for further details.

Astrobiology on WAMC Northeast Public Radio – Celebrating 14 years!

The weekly WAMC public radio show The Best of Our Knowledge features a series of interviews and discussions with faculty, teachers and students associated with the New York Center for Astrobiology, and with visiting speakers in our Seminar series. These segments continue a long tradition of Astrobiology content on WAMC, which began 14 years ago in fall of 1998, sponsored by the Astrobiology Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and its predecessor, the New York Center for Studies on the Origins of Life, with support from NASA. Past segments are available for online streaming.

The 2012 Astrobiology Teachers Academy at RPI

The 4th annual Astrobiology Teachers Academy was held on the RPI campus, July 9-13, attended by 24 high school and middle school science teachers from New York State – by far the largest number we have hosted. The teachers worked with faculty from the New York Center for Astrobiology and with education experts from the Association for the Cooperative Advancement of Science Education to develop ideas, strategies and resources to integrate astrobiological themes into their classrooms. The intrinsic fascination of astrobiology and the search for life on other planets provides a highly effective means of engaging the students in the STEM disciplines.

The Astrobiology Teachers Academy has also launched its facebook page.

The 2012 Astrobiology Summer Science Camp at RPI

Forty-eight middle school students from the Capital District spent two weeks designing space suits, building rockets, and learning about astrobiology at the annual ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp at RPI. Teams of students developed proposals for missions to search for life in the Solar System that were evaluated by scientists from the NYCA. Click here for an overview of the program; click here for details of some activities.

A New Look at the Martian Blueberries

Scientists at Syracuse University – part of NAI’s team at RPI – report new information about the history of water on Mars in the current issue of Planetary and Space Science. Focused on the hematite spherules known as the “blueberries” discovered by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity in 2004, the study suggests that ages measured using the relative abundances of uranium, thorium, and helium in the blueberries could yield the time that has passed since water last wetted the sediments.

James Ferris honored at a special session of the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference

Students, mentees, and scientific collaborators of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor of Chemistry James Ferris gathered at a special session of the 2012 Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta, Ga., on April 19 to honor the scientist. The session titled “The Origin of Biomolecules in Planetary Environments: From HCN to RNA” was dedicated to Ferris for his seminal research into the origins of life on Earth and its potential to form on other planets. Click on the links below for details:

RPI News release

Inside Rensselaer

Of Montmorillonite and Men

Webcast of the presentation (requires Adobe Connect)

New York Center for Astrobiology: Highlights of the year 2011

Click the links below for press releases and other highlights from the New York Center for Astrobiology for the calendar year 2011: