Petra Schwendner and her group during one of the field work excursions.
Graduate students and early career scientists (up to 5 years after their first Ph. D.) in fields related to astrobiology could apply for this summer school. The course was organized by the Nordic Network of Astrobiology together with the NASA Astrobiology Institute in Iceland from July 2-15 2012.
Petra Schwendner, SpaceLife PhD candidate from the Astrobiology Group at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne was selected. Her major research topic is the investigation of the tolerance of (hyper-)thermophilic microorganisms against extreme physical and chemical environmental parameters of astrobiological relevance.
This Summer School gave students a thorough high-level introduction into the role of water in the evolution of life in the Cosmos, starting from formation of water molecules in space and ending with evolution of the first organisms. Additionally, lectures were complemented by field work on colonization of new lava fields (in the Eyjafjallajökull area erupted in 2010) as well as on glaciers.
Water is fundamental to life, however some questions are still unsolved:
These crucial issues can only be solved by intensive collaboration of researchers from a multitude of disciplines (astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, biology etc.). This summer school gave all students with different scientific background the unique opportunity to introduce themselves and their research to the participants. It gave young scientists a great forum to connect with other PhD students as well as highly respected international scientists , to learn from them, to exchange thoughts, to gain new insights and ideas, and to establish new contacts and maybe even cooperation.
Iceland is an ideal venue for such an event since this country possesses a variety of astrobiology-relevant environments like new (and old) lava fields, hot springs, glaciers and sub-glacial lakes as well as Mars-like landscapes.
Field trip and sampling in Landmannalaugar.
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