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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:  Microorganisms Associated with Mars-Bound Spacecraft: Preservation, Identification, Characterization
Disciplines:  Biology/Bioengineering, Microbiology
Mentor:  Arman Seuylemezian, (JPL), Arman.Seuylemezian@jpl.nasa.gov, Phone: (818) 354-3299
Background:  The objectives of the proposed project, are to i) Identify and describe novel microbial species collected from Mars bound spacecraft surfaces using biochemical, genetic and taxanomic approach , ii) Identify existing and new isolates using MALDI-TOF system, The Biotechnology and Planetary Protection Group at JPL (BPPG) invites applications to understand the ecology of microbes found on spacecraft and to assess their potential for survival in extreme environments. The student will join an established group of researchers focusing on molecular systematic/population genetics of microbes isolated from the extreme environments of spacecraft assembly. Students will be exposed to state of the art molecular microbial techniques, sequencing, bioinformatics, etc.
Description:  Archiving of microbial cultures from spacecraft planetary protection implementation assays is a focus of planetary protection efforts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Currently, the archive facility at JPL contains over 4,000 isolates collected during the assembly, testing, and launch operations of pre-flight Mars-based spacecraft ranging from Viking to the most recently launched Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and two missions currently being built for launch. With the early phases of planning for the upcoming challenging planetary protection missions that may be planned (i.e. Mars or Europa life detection or Mars Sample Return) it is essential to understand the identification, frequency of isolation and biochemical profiles, of microbial isolates that NASA standard cleanliness assays are detecting. It is critical to preserve these organisms for long term storage, and to update the microbial archive database by providing additional biochemical data and sequence data for each isolate. Results from this study will yield details about the microbes that have been isolated from the surfaces of pre-flight spacecraft and, on a broader level, will gauge whether microorganisms from Earth have the potential to survive on Mars. Furthermore, the outcome of this study will benefit those involved in the planning of future Mars missions such as the Mars Sample Return Campaign by being able to correlate vast amounts of parallel genetic inventory datasets to NASA Standard Assays.
Student Requirements:  Microbiology, Bioinformatics, Biology, Chemistry, 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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