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SURF: Announcements of Opportunity

Below are Announcements of Opportunity posted by Caltech faculty and JPL technical staff for the SURF program. Additional AOs for the Amgen Scholars program can be found here.

Specific GROWTH projects being offerred for summer 2017 can be found here.

Students pursuing opportunities at JPL must be U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents.

Each AO indicates whether or not it is open to non-Caltech students. If an AO is NOT open to non-Caltech students, please DO NOT contact the mentor.

Announcements of Opportunity are posted as they are received. Please check back regularly for new AO submissions! Remember: This is just one way that you can go about identifying a suitable project and/or mentor.

Announcements for external summer programs are listed here.

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Project:  Planetary Protection Support for Mars 2020 Activities
Disciplines:  Biology/Bioengineering, Microbiology, Molecular Biology
Mentor:  Heidi Aronson, (JPL),, Phone: (818) 354-3379
Background:  The Mars 2020 rover is designed to seek signs of past life on Mars, collect and store soil and rock samples for future return to Earth, and test new technology to benefit future robotic and human exploration of Mars. Therefore, planetary protection bioburden requirements are applicable to this mission and will require microbial reduction procedures and biological burden reports of launched and landed hardware. The Planetary Protection group is responsible for determining and monitoring the bioburden of spacecraft destined for other moons or planets, like the Mars 2020 rover.

The NASA Standard Assay verifies bioburden requirements by quantifying any aerobic, heterotrophic, heat-shock resistant, spore-forming isolates. These isolates are directly enumerated, recorded, and archived for future study.
Description:  The objectives of the proposed project, are to i) support Mars 2020 sampling activities, ii) store and identify cultivable microbes collected from Mars 2020 spacecraft surfaces.

The Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at JPL (BPPG) invites applications to understand the ecology and evolution of microbes living on spacecraft and to assess their bioburden densities for the Mars 2020 spacecraft. The student will join an established group of researchers and engineers focusing on molecular systematics/population genetics of microbes isolated from various extreme environments. The student will also be involved in the maintenance and enhancement of various microbial collections. Students will be exposed to state of the art molecular microbial techniques, sequencing, bioinformatics, spacecraft hardware design, planetary protection implementation, etc.
Student Requirements:  Upper Division Junior/Senior, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Bioinformatics, Biochemistry
Location / Safety:  Project building and/or room locations: . Student will need special safety training: Yes.
Programs:  This AO can be done under the following programs:

  Program    Available To
       SURF    both Caltech and non-Caltech students 

Click on a program name for program info and application requirements.

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