Nordic Network of Astrobiology

Nordic-Hawai'i Summer School "Water, Ice and the Origin of Life in the Universe", 2-15 July 2012

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Course organisers
The summer school will be organised by Wolf D. Geppert ( Stockholm University, Sweden) and Karen Meech (University of Hawai'i, USA) and in co-operation with the University of Iceland and the other scientists involved in the Nordic Network of Astrobiology.

The following lecturers will give presentations at the summer school (please check the Programme webpage for a preliminary schedule):

Prof. John Baross, University of Washington, USA
Professor of Oceanography and the Astrobiology Program at the University of Washington. He specializes in the ecology, physiology, and taxonomy of microorganisms from hydrothermal vent environments, and the use of biochemical and molecular methods to detect, quantify, and classify the same. John has particular interests in the microbial ecology of extreme environments, the biotechnological applications of microorganisms that grow in extreme environments, astrobiology, and in the significance of submarine hydrothermal vent environments for the origin and evolution of life. The novel environment and microbes present at Lost City are of great interest to John and his laboratory group. Samples recovered from this field offer potential for new discoveries and insights into life in the extreme environments of hydrothermal vents.
Prof. Nils-Kåre Birkeland, University of Bergen, Norway
Nils-Kåre Birkeland is working at the Norwegian Centre of Excellence for Geobiology located at the University of Bergen. He has a broad interest in molecular microbiology and microbial physiology/biotechnology.His main research area are thermophiles growing at temperatures up to 100oC. To learn more abouthis research, view his homepage.
Prof. Cecilia Ceccarelli, Grenoble Observatory, France
Cecilia Ceccarrelli is astronomer at the Laboratoire d'Astrophisique at the Observatoire de Grenoble.She is mainly working in the field of star formation, formation of protoplanetary disks and molecular deuteration in the Universe.In 2006 she was awarded the Irène Joliot-Curie Prize as Woman in Science of the Year in France. To find out more about Cecilia Cecarelli’s research click this link. A CV of her can be found here.
Dr. Henderson (Jim) Cleaves, Carnegie Science Institution of Washington, USA
Dr. Cleaves received his Ph.D. in chemistry in 2001 from the University of California, San Diego. His research in organic geochemistry is concerned principally with abiotic organic synthesis, the question of how life arose on Earth, and methods for detecting Life on other planets. He is also interested in the study of the interactions of organic compounds with mineral surfaces. Presently he is involved with exploring ways to apply chemoinformatics to prebiotic chemistry and the analysis of extraterrestrial materials.
Prof. Charles Cockell, University of Edinburgh, UK
His academic interests encompass life in extreme environments, the interactions of microbes with minerals and the implications for earth system processes and the habitability of extraterrestrial environments. He received his first degree in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Bristol and his PhD (DPhil) from the University of Oxford in molecular biology.

He then undertook a National Research Council Associateship at the NASA Ames Research Centre in California before working at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.He moved to the Open University to take up a Chair in Geomicrobiology in 2005.Professor Cockell sits on ESA?s Planetary Protection and Life Sciences Working Groups. He is a Senior Editor of the journal 'Astrobiology' and his popular science books include ?Impossible Extinction?, which explores the tenacity of microbes on the Earth, and ?Space on Earth?, which looks at the links between environmentalism and space exploration. He is Chair of the Earth and Space Foundation, a non-profit organisation he established in 1994.
Some peculiar information about Charles Cockell's career (includiung a stint in politics) can be found here.
Prof. David Cullen, Cranfield University, UK
In recent years, the main focus of Professor Cullen?s research has been the design and application of biosensors, bio-diagnostics and related bioanalytical technologies in the field of astrobiology and life in extreme environments - especially for in-situ life detec-tion and characterisation associated with planetary exploration (e.g. Mars), subglacial environments on Earth and more recently the Earth?s stratosphere. Examples of recent and current activities in this area are:
  • Joint lead-proposer of the Life Marker Chip (LMC) experiment for evidence of life detection on.
  • Application and development of suites of in-situ life detection and characterisation techniques to subglacial environments.
  • Use of stratospheric balloon platforms to study life in the upper atmosphere
  • On-going development of the Hypervelocity Artificial Meteoroid Experiment (HAME) mission concept that proposes to enter >500kg of artificial meteoroid material into the Earth?s atmosphere.
  • Study to confirm the survivability of immunoassay reagents in simulated and real space environments, latterly as scientific lead for the LMC experiment
  • Technology transfer of bioanalytical activities from extreme environment ap-plications to those in medical, environmental, security and defence applica-tions.
Dr. Herma Cuppen, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Herma Cuppen is Tenure track researcher at the Institute of Molecules and Materials at Nijmegen University. Before she was a postdoctoral researcher at the Leiden Observatory working on the Interstellar physics on the rocks; Monte-Carlo simulations of ice mantles. She rescently won a prestigious ERC start-up grant.
Dr. David Des Marais, NASA Ames Research Centre, USA
Dr. David Des Marais is a senior space scientist at NASA Ames Research Center. He has investigated the geochemistry of lunar samples, meteorites and both volcanic and ancient sedimentary rocks from Earth. He coordinated a long-term study of benthic cyanobacterial microbial ecosystems. David is Principal Investigator of the Ames Research Center Team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. He is currently a member of the science teams of NASA?s 2003 Mars Exploration Rover mission, the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, the 2011 Mars Science Laboratory mission and the 2016 ExoMars/Trace Gas Orbiter mission. He has published more than 160 technical articles and chapters on these topics. David is Chair of NASA?s Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group.
Prof. Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson, University of Iceland
Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson is geophysicist and professor at the University of Iceland. His research interest include:
  • Physical nature of subglacial volcanism, in particular the interaction of volcanoes and the overlying ice caps or ice sheets including the effects on ice flow and basal water flow.
  • Explosive volcanism, especially basaltic magma-water interactions.
  • Internal structure of volcanoes, especially subglacial volcanoes and the effects of the ice volcano interaction on structure and geothermal activity.
  • Geophysical exploration, especially gravity surveying and its application to the study of volcanic structures.

Prof. James W. Head III., Brown University, Rhode Island, USA
Professor Head studies themes of planetary evolution and the role of volcanism and tectonism in the formation and evolution of planetary crusts. Several research projects are underway in the field in Antarctica, on the Earth's seafloor, and in assessing data from planetary surfaces to study climate change on Mars, volcanism on the Moon, Mars and Venus, the geology of the surface of Mercury and the tectonic and volcanic evolution of icy satellites.

Prof. Head earned a B.S. from Washington and Lee University in 1964 and his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1969. During 4 years with Bellcomm, Inc. in Washington, DC in the NASA Systems Analysis Branch, his research focus shifted to planetary geology studies relating to the Apollo Lunar Exploration Program including training of Apollo astronauts. Following a position as Interim Director of the Houston Lunar Science Institute, he joined the Brown Department of Geological Sciences as assistant professor (research) in 1973, then was promoted to full professor in 1980, named to the James Manning Chair in 1990, and in 1995 was named to the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Professorship in Geological Sciences. MOre information about Prof. Head's research can be found here.

Prof. Nils Holm, Stockholm University, Sweden
Nils Holm is Professor of Marine Geochemistry at the Department of Geological Sciences at Stockholm University. He has specialized in different aspects of astrobiology like the organic geochemistry of hydrothermal fluids, organic-inorganic interactions, the Deep Biosphere concept and origin of life studies. Holm has been heavily involved in science evaluation of the Ocean Drilling programme (ODP) and has participated in ODP Leg 158 TAG Hydrothermal System (1994) and Leg 201 Peru Deep Biosphere (2002). His research is mainly funded by the Swedish National Space Board and the Swedish Research Council.
Prof. Karen J. Meech, University of Hawai'i, USA
Karen Meech is an astronomer at the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.  Her scientific interests include several areas of cometary science: evolution and aging processes in comets, observations of distant comets, Kuiper belt comets and astrobiology.  Other scientific interests include planetary formation and the search for extra-solar planetary systems, archaeoastronomy and variable stars.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Physics at Rice University in 1981, and her PhD in planetary astronomy at the MIT in 1987.  Karen has been a Co-Investigator on the NASA Deep Impact mission, in charge of coordinating the world?s observing.  She is playing a similar role for NASA?s EPOXI and StardustNExT Missions.  She is leading an effort from the UH in collaboration with scientists at JPL and several other US and foreign institutions to develop a proposal for a NASA Discovery mission to the main belt comets.  She has been an active member in the international astronomy community and is currently the president of Division III Planetary Systems Sciences of the International Astronomic Union.  Karen is the PI leading the UH NASA Astrobiology Institute, and is keenly interested in issues related to the origin of water on Earth and habitable planets.  She?s also very active in teaching and outreach.  Karen apparently does not know what free time is, but if she had any she very much enjoys camping, hiking, swimming, scuba diving, piano playing and reading (in the hadean epoch of her career she actually practiced some of these things).  She is one of the co-organisers of this summer school. For more information check her homepage.
Dr. BorgÞor Magnusson, Icelandic Institute of Natural History
BorgÞor Magnusson is a plant ecologist and research scientist at the Icelandic Institute of Natural History. As an undergraduate in biology, Magnusson first stepped his foot on Surtsey in 1975. The stay on the new island and experiencing the early colonization of plants and birds in a remote and hostile environment had a strong influence on Magnusson's decision to become an ecologist. Surtsey is now his favorite research area, and he takes part in an expedition to the island every summer. Magnusson and his colleagues have set up a long-term study on Surtsey to closely follow plant colonization and succession and how it is affected by sea gulls breeding on the island. Magnusson received his Ph.D. in botany from the University of Manitoba, Canada. He also earned an M.Sc. in ecology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and a B.Sc. in biology from the University of Iceland. He worked as a high school teacher and research assistant before going to graduate school.

Prof. Hans Olofsson, Onsala Space Observatory, Sweden
Hans Olofsson is professor of radio astronomy and director of the Onsala Space Observatory, the Swedish National Facility for Radio Astronomy, at Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg. His main fields of research are the distribution, kinematics, and physical/chemical structure of the star-forming gas on galactic scales, and the final evolution of solar-type stars. Both these aspects of the life cycle of stars have an astrobiological bearing. The former establishes the large-scale boundary conditions for the origin of life. The latter has a direct bearing on any existing life through the evolution of the central star, and, as the star approaches its death, an indirect effect through the production of heavier elements and complex (in an astronomical sense) molecules. More information can be found here.

Prof. Prof. Haraldur Sigurðsson, University of Rhode Island, USA
Haraldur Sigurdsson is emeritusprofessor of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He has worked on research in the field of volcanology for over forty years, with studies on volcanoes in his native Iceland, North and South America, Caribbean, Indonesia, Italy and Africa, as well as on submarine volcanoes. He first visited Santorini (Thera) in 1975 as a member of the oceanographic expedition that studied the fallout from the Minoan eruption in the Bronze Age. His studies on the violent explosive eruptions of Krakatau in 1883 and Tambora in 1815 have strong parallels to the Thera eruption in the Bronze Age. During the 1975 Thera expedition the URI research vessel R/V Trident carried out sediment sampling of the sea floor east of Thera in order to determine the fallout pattern of air-borne volcanic ash from the great Minoan eruption. He was also editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of Volcanoes, also published in 1999. He was awarded the Coke Medal of the Geological Society of London in 2004.

Dr. Þorsteinn Þorsteinsson, Icelandic Meteorological Office, Iceland
Þorsteinn Þorsteinsson s a glaciologist working at the Icelandic Meteorological Office. He also teaches part-time at the University of Iceland. Þorsteinn did his PhD-work on ice textures and fabrics at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, and he has participated in several deep ice coring projects in Greenland and Antarctica. Since 2000 he has mainly focused on various glaciological research and monitoring programs in Iceland, including studies of subglacial lakes beneath the Vatnajökull ice cap. He has lead the local organizing of several astrobiology-related events in Iceland, including the 2nd Mars Polar Conference in Iceland in 2000, the Bioastronomy 2004: Habitable Worlds conference and the NASA-Nordic Summer School in 2009. .
Prof. Jack Hunter Waite, South West Research Institute, USA
Dr. Waite is a planetary scientist specializing in the application of mass spectrometry to the study of solar system biogeochemistry and aeronomy.  He is involved in research projects in ion/neutral mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, biogeochemistry, thermospheric modeling, and planetary astronomy.  Following completion of his undergraduate studies in physics at the University of Alabama in 1976, he began graduate work in atmospheric science at the University of Michigan. He received a M.S. in atmospheric science in 1978 and, in 1981, was awarded a Ph.D. for his development of a model of Saturn's ionosphere. From 1981 to 1988, Dr. Waite was a Research Scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, where he was heavily involved in the analysis of Dynamics Explorer data on ion outflow from the Earth's ionosphere. From 1988 to 2000, Dr. Waite was at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), where he was Director of the Space Science Department of the Instrumentation and Space Research Division. Although still involved in studies of the Earth's coupled ionosphere-magnetosphere system, Professor Waite's work at SwRI was strongly focused on planetary research. In January of 2001, Dr. Waite became a full professor in the University of Michigan, Department of Engineering, Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences department. . Dr. Waite returned to SwRI as an Institute Scientist in May of 2006. His primary responsibilities include Director of the Center for Excellence in Analytical Mass Spectrometry, where he is involved in the definition and development of ion and neutral mass spectrometers and gas chromatographic techniques. He is the Team Leader for the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer investigation, co-investigator and lead SwRI hardware manager for the Rosetta/Rosina Reflectron Time-of-Flight, and principal investigator for the development of a Jupiter Thermosphere-Ionosphere General Circulation Model. Dr. Waite is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Astronomical Society, and Sigma Xi and a former editor of the AGU letters journal, Geophysical Research Letters. In 1996, he was named Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. MOre information about him can be found here.
Dr. Wolf Geppert, Stockholm University, Sweden
Wolf D. Geppert received his Ph. D. in Physical Chemistry at the University of York in 2000. Since then he has been working in the field of astrochemistry - mostly with experiments to investigate barrier-less reactions of importance for the synthesis of molecules in the interstellar medium and planetary ionospheres. After several post-doctoral positions in Bordeaux, Helsinki and Stockholm he obtained his current position as a Senior Researcher at Stockholm University in 2007. His work mainly concerns studying the formation of complex molecules in space through ion induced processes using experimental, observational and computational methods. Wolf Geppert is Coordinator of the Nordic Astrobiology Network of and Director of the Stockholm University Astrobiology Centre. He is also Vice Chair of the European Union COST Action "The Chemical Cosmos: Understanding Chemistry in Astronomical Environments".

Contact: Wolf D. Geppert, Fysikum, Stockholm University, Roslagstullsbacken 21, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden, phone: +46 8 5537 8649, email: