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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 2018 can be found here.

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.

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

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Project:  Genetic inventory of microbes present on spacecraft and spacecraft associated surfaces.
Disciplines:  Biology/Bioengineering, Genetics, Microbiology, Biochemistry
Mentor:  Lisa Guan, (JPL),, Phone: (818) 354-2814
Background:  The Mars 2020 mission aims to advance our understanding of Mars by delivering a rover to the Martian surface. The rover will be equipped with a sample collection and caching system for collecting Martian material for possible return to Earth. In compliance with the Committee on Space Research Planetary Protection Policy, NASA monitors the total microbial burden of spacecraft as a means for minimizing forward contamination, which is the inadvertent transfer of viable contaminant microorganisms, to extraterrestrial environments. It is critical to identify and document all potential sources of biological contamination from pre-flight spacecraft hardware to prevent contamination of the Martian environment and any samples we collect from there. Conventional microbiological approaches have examined cultivable and non-cultivable microorganisms, but currently, metagenomics is the best approach we have to determine the microbial biodiversity without the need of isolation and lab cultivation of individual species. A metagenomics approach provides a comprehensive taxonomic profile as well as the genetic functional potential of a microbial community in a given habitat. Given the low amounts of biomass present on spacecraft hardware, existing molecular biology techniques are insufficient to generate a high-quality metagenomics library. Therfore, this project will require the development and optimization of new laboratory protocols that are at the cutting-edge of environmental genomics technology. Using this technology, the project will identify, document, and archive the broadest spectrum possible of potential terrestrial contaminants from critical spacecraft hardware during the M2020 spacecraft assembly process at JPL.
Description:  The M2020 Genetic Inventory project aims to identify, document, and archive all potential sources of biological contamination from
M2020 flight hardware. Samples collected from spacecraft hardware and associated surfaces will be processed for DNA extraction, DNA quantification, genomic library preparation, and DNA sequencing. The task involves joining staff scientists in conducting and optimizing a sample processing workflow for low-biomass samples. The student will have hands-on experience with state-of-the-art molecular biology lab techniques and instruments.

Student Requirements:  Molecular Biology
Organic Chemistry
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    Caltech students only 

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

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