October 2012 Issue

In this issue:

Conferences, Field Trips and Workshops

Student and Early Career Opportunities

Funding Opportunities

Other Opportunities & Announcements

Conferences, Field Trips and Workshops


12th European Workshop on Astrobiology (EANA’12)

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

EANA’12 will take place in Stockholm at the AlbaNova University Centre. For all the details visit: http://agenda.albanova.se/conferenceDisplay.py?confId=2996


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Astrobiology Workshop, Aveiro University

Location: Aveiro, Portugal
Abstract submission deadline: closed - September 15

The focus of this workshop is on maximizing resources and gathering and sharing expertise in the field of astrobiology. It’s an excellent platform to introduce astrobiology to university students and researchers of related fields. The structure of the workshop includes lectures, a round table session, two poster sessions and an open session to general audience and parallel activities for children. On the last day there will be a field trip to a geological formation of interest to Astrobiology.

For more information visit: http://astrobiologia.web.ua.pt/


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Thermodynamics, Disequilibrium and Evolution (TDE) Focus Group Workshop

Location: Spain

The 3rd Thermodynamics, Disequilibrium and Evolution (TDE) Focus Group Workshop will take place at the Parque de las Ciencias, in Granada (Spain), October 22-23, 2012. For those of you not able to attend, we will have web connection capabilities, so that you can connect to the Workshop as well as give a presentation remotely.

If you would like to participate in the workshop in this way, please send an e-mail to Eugenio Simoncini Eugenio.Simoncini@gmail.com and Laurie Barge Laura.M.Barge@jpl.nasa.gov as soon as possible, as they are drawing up the Agenda for this meeting.

As previous Workshops this will be a good opportunity to exchange information between the members of the Working Group and work on future publication and funding proposal efforts.


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3rd Conference on Terrestrial Mars Analogues

Location: Marrakech, Morocco
Abstract Submission Deadline: closed - 15 August, 2012

The analysis of Mars analogue environments on Earth is of paramount importance for the interpretation of the data from past, present and future orbital and landed missions, as well as mission planning (both robotic and human). Sedimentary environments in particular attract strong interest because they can retain the palaeoclimatic and palaeoenvironmental history of the planet and under the right conditions may harbour fossil or present life signatures. The participation of terrestrial geologists is particularly encouraged, in order to identify and promote the many synergies between martian and terrestrial science.

There will be both pre and post conference field trips.

For more information visit: http://www.ibnbattutacentre.org/conf/mars2012/


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Workshop on Astro- and Paleobiology: New Techniques to Study Ancient Life

Location: São Paulo, Brazil

The University of São Paulo Research Unit in Astrobiology (NAP-Astrobio) is organizing a workshop on the connections between astrobiology and paleobiology, the study of ancient forms of life on Earth.

Date: November 8th, 2012
Time: 8:30am to 6:30pm (São Paulo time)
Location: Geosciences Institute, University of São Paulo
Website: www.astrobiobrazil.org/wapbr
Details: The event will be in Portuguese and broadcast online.


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2nd Exobiology Workshop in Fréjus

Location: Fréjus, France
Abstract Submission Deadline: closed - 14 July 2012

This conference aims to unite and strengthen the French exobiology community by providing a showcase for French Exobiology and awareness of the Society of French Exobiology (SFE).

The five main topics will be covered by invited lectures, oral presentations and posters:
1) early Earth and its environment
2) bricks of life and prebiotic chemistry
3) Transition to living and early evolution of life (including “artificial life” and “minimal life”)
4) Exobiology in the Solar System
5) Exoplanets and habitable

Aspects “biosignatures / traces of life” and epistemology / history and philosophy of science are also covered under these five themes.

Visit: http://www.exobiologie.fr/index.php/actualites/evenements/rencontres-sfe-2012/ for all the details.


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ILASOL – Israel Society for Astrobiology and the Study of Origin of Life

Location: Rehovot, Isreal

Life’s origin and existence in the universe are among the most profound riddles ever facing science. ILASOL is an Israeli scientific society devoted to these issues. ILASOL’s yearly meeting gathers physicists, biologists, chemists, mathematicians, philosophers and researchers of other disciplines present works related to life’s origin and astrobiology. Presentations are peer-reviewed in order to guarantee high scientific level, while enabling a friendly forum for novel and unorthodox ideas to be aired and assessed. The 26th meeting will take place on December 9th, 2012. The international guest speaker will be Prof. dr. Paulien Hogeweg from Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

For more information visit: http://www.ilasol.org.il/fMeetings


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2nd Australian Exoplanet Workshop

Location: Canberra, Australia
Registration deadline: 23 November 2012

Held at the Mt Stromlo Observatory, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, this meeting aims to bring researchers working on exoplanets (from both an observational and theoretical perspective) together. The workshop will cover surveys, characterization and theoretical modelling of planet formation and evolution – indeed anything related to the science of planets orbiting other stars. 

There is no registration fee to attend the Workshop. However, please indicate attendance via the registration page http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/planets/registration.html, which includes the option to submit a title and abstract of the talk.

For all the workshop information visit: http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/planets/home.html


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Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life - 5 week course

Location: Scotland

This 5 week course beginning January 28th, 2013 at the University of Edinburgh will explore what we know about life’s ability to live in extreme environments on the Earth. We will look at some of the missions to search for life in our own Solar System and on planets orbiting distant stars. We will discuss some of the extreme environments on the Earth that help us understand the limits of life and how life has adapted to cope with extremes. We will explore the possibility of intelligent alien life and some of the implications of its detection. The course will provide a foundation in astrobiology and introduce students to concepts in a diversity of scientific fields.

Visit: https://www.coursera.org/course/astrobio for all the course information.


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MARS2013 - Morocco Mars Analog Field Simulation

Location: Marrakech, Morocco
Proposal Deadline: closed - 15 June 2012

In February 2013, the Austrian Space Forum, in cooperation with the Ibn-Battuta Center at the University of Marrakesh will conduct a one-month Mars Analog mission in the Northern Sahara of Morocco within the framework of the PolAres research programme. A small field crew will conduct experiments preparing for future human Mars missions mainly in the fields of engineering, planetary surface operations, astrobiology, geophysics/geology, life sciences and other. The announcement of the successful experiments will be
released on 15 July 2013. Please see the attached pdf for all the details.


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The Present-Day Habitability of Mars Workshop

Location: Los Angeles, California, USA

The UCLA Institute for Planets and Exoplanets, The UK Center for Astrobiology and the NASA Astrobiology Institute invite you to to participate in a two-day conference in February 2013 that will examine the present-day habitability of Mars.

Major topics to be considered include:
Mars Salts and Perchlorates
Current Mars Liquid Water Activity
Early MSL Results
Redox Potentials for Martian Life
Active Martian Geochemical Cycles
Implications for Mars Planetary Protection Policies

The conference will be held in historic Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. The first two days of the conference will consist of a set of 30-minute invited and contributed talks interspersed with discussions. The entire conference will be open to remote participation via a NASA Astrobiology Institute “Workshop Without Walls” webcast. On February 6th, there will be an optional field trip to JPL, which will include a tour of the Mars Science Laboratory facilities.

For more meeting information, visit http://planets.ucla.edu/meetings/mars-habitability-2013/.


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Experimental Laboratory Astrophysics

Location: Poipu, Kauai, Hawaii
Abstract Submission Deadline: closed - 1 December 2012

During the last decade, significant new experimental techniques have been developed to investigate the interaction of ionizing radiation (UV, VUV, gamma rays, charged particles) and of neutrals (atoms, radicals, molecules, grains) with surfaces of solids (ices, minerals, carbonaceous compounds) in the Solar System and in the Interstellar Medium (ISM). These processes provide new fun­damental insights – sometimes on the molecular level – into the processes that are critical to the chemistry in the ISM, star and planet forming regions, and on/in icy objects in the Solar Sys­tem from the formation of the simplest molecule (molecular hydrogen) to astrobiologically important species such as amino acids and sugars. There is an increasing convergence of interests of these fields, so a ‘united’, bi-annual workshop is highly desired.

The first workshop features invited (40 min) as well as contributed talks (20 min) focusing on the interaction of ionizing radiation (UV, VUV, gamma rays, charged particles) and neutrals (atoms, radicals, molecules, grains) with low temperature solids (ices, minerals, organics). The talks can be extended to observations, modeling, and electronic structure calculations, but only if these topics can be directly linked – as evident from the abstract – to laboratory experiments. Poster submissions are highly encouraged; this will allow a broad participation of newcomers to the field (Ph.D. students, postdocs).

For more information visit: http://www.chem.hawaii.edu/Bil301/Ice2013.html


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International Workshop on Chemical Evolution and Origin of Life

Location: Roorkee, India

The Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India is organizing an “International Workshop on Chemical Evolution and Origin of Life”.

Save the dates: March 21-23, 2013.
We will post more information as it comes but if you want to contact someone now email Professor Kamaluddin kamalfcy@iitr.ernet.in


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Astrobiology Grand Tour - Western Australia

Location: Denham, Australia

This eleven-day scientific discovery tour that journeys from the Western Australian coastal town of Denham through the Pilbara will be a trip back in time. It is designed for scientists interested in the earliest life on Earth, and early environments. Highlights range from the modern stromatolites of Shark Bay, through the banded iron formations of the Hamersley Ranges to the earliest convincing evidence of life on Earth in the 3.5 billion-year-old rocks of the Pilbara Craton. Your guide, Professor Malcolm Walter, will take you through some of Australia’s most remote and remarkable countryside. Accommodation will be in a sheep station (ranch), country hotels and camping under the stars (made easy by professional camp managers, Outdoor Spirit).

For more information visit: http://aca.unsw.edu.au/Grand_Tour
Download the PDF with all the details and the booking form below

To secure your place, please return a copy of the booking form to marnie@fredwatson.com.au


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Protostars & Planets VI

Location: Heidelberg, Germany

The Protostars and Planets series has served the community for more than three decades with state of the art compilations of the current knowledge in the fields of star and planet formation. The previous volume PPV was published in 2007. Since then, the field of protostars and planets has advanced tremendously, from a theoretical as well as observational point of view.

The primary outcome of the conference will be the Protostars and Planets VI book of review articles. The logistics of preparing excellent overview articles and getting them into print in due time requires timely organization. Therefore, the deadline to submit proposals for review chapters and associated talks was closed on September 15th 2012.

For more information visit: http://www.mpia-hd.mpg.de/homes/ppvi/index.php


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International Biogeoscience Conference 2013

Location: Japan

Early registration deadline: August 31, 2013.
Abstract submission for oral presentations is closed but slots for poster presentations are still open.

To submit a poster, please contact Kenichiro (Ken) Sugitani as soon as possible. Registrations for presentation will be closed when all poster slots are filled.

The International Biogeoscience Conference 2013 – “Revealing the biotic diversity on the early Earth and the evolution of cyanobacteria and eukaryotes” will take place at Nagoya University, Japan, co-hosted by Nagoya City Science Museum, the Japan Astrobiology Network Association, and the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.

This conference aims to bring together geologists, paleontologists, geochemists, biologists, and molecular and evolutionary biologists to discuss significant contemporary issues relating to our understanding of the early evolution of life and its interaction with Earth’s surface environments.

For all the conference information visit: http://www.info.human.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~sugi/Site/Biogeoscience_Conference_2013.html


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Student and Early Career Opportunities


Post-doctoral position in Computational Metagenomics of the Deep Biosphere in Finland

Location: Espoo/Helsinki, Finland
15 November, 2012

The Department of Information and Computer Science at Aalto University in Espoo/Helsinki, Finland, pursues research on advanced computational methods for modelling, analysing, and solving complex tasks in technology and science. The research aims at the development of fundamental computer science methods for the analysis of large and high-dimensional data sets, and for the modelling and design of complex software, networking and other computational systems.

The geobiology research consortium at Biotechnology cluster of VTT www.vtt.fi in Espoo/Helsinki Finland is studying the terrestrial deep biosphere. The research is connected to biogeochemistry and microbial ecology of deep earth crust ecosystems. Metadata and metapathway analysis of multispecies microbial communities will be studied in collaboration with the multidisciplinary research team of Aalto University and VTT.

We are looking for a motivated, self-driven post-doctoral researcher to join our multidisciplinary research team deciphering the metagenomics and meta-transcriptomics of deep earth crust microbial communities.

Research is connected to the ICDP (International Continental Scientific Drilling Program) and the global network of the Deep https://dco.gl.ciw.edu/ as well as the National Centre of Excellence on Algorithmic Data Analysis.

We expect the applicants to have a PhD (or to have submitted a dissertation for evaluation) in Computer Science, Statistics, Computational Biology, Bioinformatics or a related field, with an excellent publication record and expertise in one or more of the following fields: Next generation sequencing, Algorithm design, Machine learning and data mining and/or Systems biology. Excellent programming (Python, MATLAB, R) and technical skills, as well as excellent written and oral communication skills are required. Previous expertise in metagenomics data analysis or metabolic modelling is considered an advantage. In addition to research work, a postdoctoral researcher is expected to participate in the supervision of students and teaching related to their research topic. Good command of English is a necessary prerequisite.

The successful candidate will join a team of researches led by Docent Merja Itävaara (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland) and Professor Juho Rousu (Aalto University and Helsinki Institute for Information Technology). The post doc position is for two years and is jointly affiliated with both VTT and Aalto University.

Application procedure
The following should be sent in pdf format by email to registry@aalto.fi.

  • Expression of interest that includes contact information of the applicant, and names and contact information of two senior academics available for reference per e-mail.
  • A complete curriculum vitae describing education and employment history.
  • List of publications, with pointers to openly available online versions of at most three of the most relevant publications. Please use “DeepBiosphere” as a reference in the application.

Applications received by November 15, 2012 will receive full consideration. The salary level for a starting postdoctoral researcher is between 3200 and 3600 euros per month, depending on experience and qualifications. The contract includes occupational health services and Finland has a comprehensive social security system. Candidates may be invited for an interview on the Otaniemi campus of Aalto University in Espoo/Helsinki.

For further information, please contact:

Professor Juho Rousu, Department of Information and Computer Science, Aalto University PO Box 15400 (Konemiehentie 2, Espoo), 00076 Aalto, Finland Juho.Rousu@aalto.fi

Docent Merja Itävaara, VTT Technical Research Center of Finland Tietotie 2, 02044 VTT, Finland Merja.Itavaara@vtt.fi


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2013 Sagan Fellowships

The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute announces the 2013 Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and solicits applications for fellowships to begin in the fall of 2013. The application deadline is Thursday, November 1, 2012.

The Sagan Fellowships will support outstanding recent postdoctoral scientists to conduct independent research that is broadly related to the science goals of the NASA Exoplanet Exploration program. The primary goal of missions within this program is to discover and characterize planetary systems and Earth-like planets around nearby stars. Sagan Fellowships are joined by two other NASA astrophysics theme-based fellowship programs: the Einstein Fellowship Program which supports the Physics of the Cosmos research, and the Hubble Fellowship Program which supports Cosmic Origins research.

For more information visit: http://nexsci.caltech.edu/sagan/fellowship.shtml


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Ph.D. studentship in Physics at the Stockholm University Astrobiology Centre

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

The Stockholm University Astrobiology Centre jointly announces a fully funded, 4-year PhD student position. The successful applicant will work in the research project “Negative ions in the universe”

The position at the Physics Department will concern investigations of gas-phase processes of anions. Although many studies have been carried out on anions in solution, little research has been performed on anions in the gas phase. However, interest in these species and their formation and destruction processes has been spurred by the recent detections of anions in dark clouds and circumstellar envelopes as well as in Titan’s ionosphere by the Cassini spacecraft. At the new DESIREE double storage ring facility at Stockholm University mutual neutralisation studies of anions will be performed. These investigations will be complemented by studies of other destruction processes like photodissociation and associative detachment with H atoms. Results of these studies will serve as input for model calculations and the predictions will be compared with observations.

For information about application, employment and project details please see the official announcement in English at the website: http://abc.geo.su.se/index.php/new-position/108-new-position

The position is open to students from all nationalities and successful candidateds should have a Master’s degree or equivalent in Physics or astronomy or a related subject. Further information can be obtained from the Director of the Stockholm University Astrobiology Centre, Wolf D. Geppert (phone: ++46-8-55378649, email: wgeppert@fysik.su.se ).


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Funding Opportunities


Civil Service Position at NASA Johnson Space Center: Organic Geochemistry of Astromaterials

Location: Houston, TX, USA

The Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Directorate, NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC), announces an opening for a civil service research scientist in the Astromaterials Research Office. The incumbent will be expected to conduct fundamental research in the general area of organic geochemistry of astromaterials. United States citizenship and a Ph.D. or equivalent experience in chemistry, physics, geology, geochemistry, planetary sciences, or a related field are required.

The position requires an advanced knowledge of principles, practices, and applications of organic geochemistry in planetary and space sciences. The position will be filled at the GS-13 level. For a table of civil servant salaries in the greater Houston area, see http://www.opm.gov/oca/12tables/html/hou.asp

The selectee will be expected to establish a strong research program and to attract funds from any of the range of NASA Research & Analysis programs. This research program should complement or build upon existing ARES strengths, which include studies of primitive materials, meteorites, comets, and asteroids; Mars exploration and science research; experimental studies; and astrobiology. ARES is well-equipped with state of the art analytical and experimental laboratories (see http://ares.jsc.nasa.gov/ares/index_krlab.cfm for a complete list). Participation in NASA-sponsored space science missions is strongly encouraged (e.g. instrument team member/PI/co-I, participating scientist, etc.). The selectee will provide advice and support to the ARES Astromaterials Acquisition and Curation Office for issues relating to organic geochemistry, such as organic contamination control, planetary protection, and procedures for appropriate curation of astromaterials that may contain organic species, on an as-needed basis up to one-fifth time. The selectee will also provide support for various Directorate and Center efforts up to one-tenth time.

All applications must be made through the USAJobs.gov website. Please search for Position Number JS13D0001 within that site. The position will be open to accept applications from 15 October through 5 November, 2012. Starting date is subject to negotiation. Please address inquiries to Dr. David Draper (Manager, Astromaterials Research Office, david.draper@nasa.gov), who will also provide, upon request, a detailed outline (authored by JSC’s Human Resources office) for navigating the USAJobs.gov website and compiling a responsive application.


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Director Position at ISSI

Location: Bern, Switzerland
October 31, 2012

The International Space Science Institute (ISSI) in Bern, Switzerland, invites applications for a position of Director. Under the leadership of the Executive Director, the Directors of ISSI provide the inspirational scientific environment of the Institute in their area of research and they are the driving force behind the various activities taking place at ISSI: Scientific workshops, forums, international teams. Their recognized scientific stature ensures the visibility and guarantees the high scientific standards of the Institute.

Personalities corresponding to the above profile working in any area of space sciences covered by ISSI’s activities (with the exception of Earth Observations) are encouraged to apply. The new Director is expected to spend about 30% (negotiable) of her/his time working for ISSI at the Institute’s premises in Bern, Switzerland, starting in July 2013. The appointment will be for a period of four years renewable once.

Interested scientists should contact the chair of the Search Committee:
Prof. Willy Benz, Physikalisches Institut, Center for Space and Habitability University of Bern Sidlerstrasse 5 CH-3012 Bern (Switzerland) e-mail: willy.benz@space.unibe.ch at their earliest convenience but no later than October 31, 2012. Further information about the organisation of the International Space Institute and its activities can be found at: http://www.issibern.ch


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Call for Applications: NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Chair

December 1, 2012

The John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress is accepting applications and nominations for the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.

Applications and nominations must be postmarked by Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. For guidelines and forms, visit www.loc.gov/loc/kluge/fellowships/NASA-astrobiology.html.

Established in the fall of 2011, the Blumberg Astrobiology Chair is a distinguished senior position at the Library’s Kluge Center. The incumbent conducts research at the intersection between the science of astrobiology and its humanistic aspects, particularly its societal implications, using the collections and services of the Library. The incumbent is expected to be in residence at the Kluge Center for a period of up to 12 months. The stipend is $13,500 per month. This is an appointment made by the Librarian of Congress on the recommendation of a selection committee, which considers both applications and nominations. For the Library’s original announcement of the chair, see http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2011/11-202.html. For the selection announcement of the first chair, see http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2012/12-080.html.

The incumbent is also expected to give at least one public presentation in the Washington, D.C. area and to organize workshops, symposia, small conferences or other activities that engage the broader academic community and the public.


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NPP opportunities for Ph.D. scientists and engineers

Application Deadline: 1 November, 2012

The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) provides opportunities for Ph.D. scientists and engineers of unusual promise and ability to perform research on problems largely of their own choosing, yet compatible with the research interests of the NASA Astrobiology Program.

As noted on the NPP Web site http://nasa.orau.org/postdoc, the Astrobiology Program does not participate in every application/award cycle. The next award cycle that the Astrobiology Program will participate in will be for the November 1, 2012 application deadline. Additional information and application instructions are available at http://nasa.orau.org/postdoc/application.

Applicants must have a Ph.D. or equivalent degree in hand before beginning the fellowship, but may apply while completing the degree requirements. U. S. citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, and foreign nationals eligible for J-1 status as a Research Scholar may apply.

The intent of this program is to develop outstanding early career astrobiology researchers, broaden the scope of Astrobiology Program research, and continue to build and integrate the astrobiology community. Accordingly, priority for selection will be given to applicants whose proposed research is particularly interdisciplinary and/or innovative. Research that involves one or more elements of the Astrobiology Program will also be given priority for selection, as will research that broadens the activities of the Program. Proposals for research that incrementally extend ongoing projects will be given lower selection priority.


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Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences Faculty Position in Paleobiology and Geobiology

Location: Blacksburg, VA, USA

The College of Science at Virginia Tech, in support of the university’s strategic plan, is expanding its research presence in Energy and the Environment through interdisciplinary faculty hires across departments (for further information, visit www.science.vt.edu under faculty openings). As part of this initiative, the Department of Geosciences (www.geos.vt.edu) anticipates a tenure-track opening in Paleobiology and Geobiology, to start in Fall 2013 at our Blacksburg, VA Campus. The department is an international leader in many areas of Geosciences research, with six new members added to its faculty in the last two years. For the new position, the successful candidate needs to have outstanding research/teaching experience that explores the paleontological record using observational, experimental, and quantitative methods to reconstruct the co-evolutionary history of the biosphere and Earth’s surface environment at various spatial and temporal scales. Appointment at the assistant professor level is anticipated.

The successful candidate will be expected to establish a vigorous research program, teach effectively at the undergraduate and graduate levels, continue development of scholarly activities and professional capabilities, and participate in department, college, and university governance. Occasional travel to attend professional conferences is required. Applicants must have a Ph.D. degree in Geosciences or a related discipline at the time of appointment, have demonstrated capability/promise to develop an active research program, and pass a criminal background check. Preference will be given to candidates whose research areas complement existing strengths in the department.

Questions regarding the new position can be directed to Search Committee chair Dr. Shuhai Xiao (xiao@vt.edu). To receive full consideration, applications must be submitted online (http://www.jobs.vt.edu; reference posting #0122338) by December 21, 2012, and should include a cover letter, resume, research statement, teaching statement, and contact information of at least four referees. Salary will be commensurate with rank and experience. Virginia Tech is an EO/AA university, and offers a wide range of networking and development opportunities to women and minorities in science and engineering. Individuals with disabilities desiring accommodations in the application process should notify Mrs. Ellen Mathena at 540-231-6894, or call TTY 1-800-828-1120.


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Other Opportunities & Announcements


Looking for More Astrobiology Resources?

Visit the IAN website Resources section http://ian.arc.nasa.gov/resources/ for links to astrobiology journals, international organizations, seminars and podcasts.


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