EMS professors win the first Scialog “Signatures of life in the universe” funding

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa .– Bradford Foley and Kimberly Lau, both assistant professors of geosciences at Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, are among eight multidisciplinary teams of researchers selected to receive funding in the inaugural year of “Scialog : Signatures of Life in the Universe, “a new research initiative designed to bring the world closer to answers to fundamental questions about the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

This Scialog Prize will provide Foley, Lau and their collaborator, Stephanie Olson, assistant professor of planetary science at Purdue University, with funding of $ 165,000 – $ 55,000 each – for their project, “Water, water everywhere… Drops to drink but nothing to eat? A model for the evolution of ocean chemistry on aquatic worlds. The awards were announced on September 20 by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA).

The inaugural meeting of Signatures of Life in the Universe was held virtually on June 10-11 and brought together 54 Scialog Fellows, early-career scientists from various disciplines. Guided by lead facilitators, who are leading researchers, participants from fields such as Earth and Planetary Sciences, Chemistry and Physics, Astronomy and Astrobiology, Microbiology and Biochemistry, and data science has brainstormed transformative research projects that could bring the world closer to answering fundamental questions about the possibility of alien life.

The team will study the living conditions on planets completely covered with water.

“The project will focus on whether chemical reactions between ocean water and the seabed can provide sufficient nutrients for life on planets where no land is exposed above the sea level. the sea, ”Foley said. “We will combine models of volcanic outgassing, water-rock chemical reactions, and ocean chemistry to calculate the conditions that would allow completely ocean-covered planets to harbor life.”

“This will expand my current research to develop a framework for biogeochemistry as a lens of habitability on ocean-dominated exoplanets,” Lau said. “We look forward to collaborating in our subdomains at the intersection between the dynamics of the solid Earth and the geochemistry of the oceans and atmospheres of these intriguing planets.”

Scialog is the abbreviation for “science + dialogue”. Created in 2010 by the RCSA, the Scialog format brings together communities of early-career scientists to advance basic science in fields of global importance and write high-risk, high-yield collaborative research proposals.

The program is sponsored by RCSA, the Heising-Simons Foundation, NASA and the Kavli Foundation.

“As a nation, we are investing considerable resources in the search for life beyond Earth, so it makes sense to identify exciting new directions of research in this field by bringing together experts from various disciplines,” said said Daniel Linzer, President and CEO of RCSA. “These multidisciplinary discussions, in this case between astronomers, biologists, chemists, geologists and physicists to talk about the planets in and beyond our solar system and the origins of life on Earth, is exactly what is Scialog. “


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