Astrobiology for the Family, brought to you by AbGradCon 2018

Is life in other planets possible?

Come to the Ferst Center in Georgia Tech and find out what young scientists have to say about the possibility of life in other planets.

Explore the wonders of life on our planet and outer space in a place where science and art meet. 

Marvel at the light- and computer-generated simulations of environments outside Earth, such as that of Mars! 

Interact with robots.

Talk to a real astronaut!

Join the organizers and participants of AbGradCon 2018 to have fun and learn about astrobiology

SCHEDULE

5:30-7.00 pm. Food and Exploration. Ferst Center Atrium.

Walk through demonstration stations to explore questions such as: How diverse is life on Earth? How might life look outside Earth? How do we search for life? What makes you wonder? Food for purchase will be available from food trucks.

7-7.30 pm. The Golden Record Performance, a Performance. Ferst Center Outdoor Amphitheater

This movement-based performance is inspired by the contents of The Golden Record, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The disk was carried by the space probes Voyager 1 and 2, when they blasted off for interstellar space in 1977. The Golden Record is a time capsule, intended to communicate a story of our world to extraterrestrials. The contents were selected by a NASA committee chaired by Carl Sagan

We will imagine through modern dance, aerial arts, live music, and projected images, how humanity might look through the eyes of the life forms that may one day encounter Voyager 1 or 2  and The Golden Record.

7.30-8 PM  In Space, Within the Stars: A Conversation with an Astronaut. Ferst Center Outdoor Ampitheater

Directions and Parking: http://arts.gatech.edu/directions-and-parking-0

 

 

Event Details

Date/Time:

December 31, 1969 |

A team of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers will head to West Antarctica next winter as part of an international collaboration to explore a melting glacier that could significantly affect global sea levels. The Thwaites Glacier drains the ice from an area roughly the size of Florida, accounting for around 4 percent of current global sea-level rise — an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s and looks to be accelerating.

The Georgia Tech team will send Icefin, its home-built autonomous vehicle, through a borehole near the grounding line of the glacier to explore underneath the ice. This will allow it to map, for the first time ever, how the geology beneath the surface and the interactions between the ice and ocean water are affecting how the glacier is changing.

The mission is part of a $25 million international research collaboration led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

This will be the fourth Antarctic voyage for Icefin, but the first to the remote glacier. In fact, only a few dozen people have ever stepped foot on Thwaites.

“Thwaites Glacier is one of the fastest changing regions in the Antarctic,” said Britney Schmidt, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who leads the Icefin project. “With individual research programs, we can only investigate small parts of the system at a time. So much of West Antarctica may depend on the stability of Thwaites —  it’s a critical time to come together to explore the whole system to reveal whether it’s reached a tipping point. We’re thrilled to be a part of this incredible effort.”

The research program is called the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC). It includes   nine projects that will help scientists understand whether the glacier’s collapse could begin in the next few decades or centuries.

Icefin is one part of the MELT project, which is overseen by Keith Nicholls of the British Antarctic Survey and New York University’s David Holland. Investigators from Penn State, University of California Irvine and the University of Kansas are also involved. According to a joint press release from the NSF and NERC, MELT “will measure the melting at the ice-ocean interface of the glacier, to understand the processes involved and its potential for triggering increased sea-level rise.”

Icefin will use sonar to map the ice and sea floor and explore how the two are interacting. Its onboard cameras will also provide images of both areas. Icefin’s sensors will measure the temperature, depth and salinity of the water underneath the glacier to learn how and where the glacier is melting.

“The grounding line of a glacier is the place where it goes from sliding along the continent to floating in the ocean. This is where the glacier can become unstable,” said Schmidt. “Melt water from upstream under the glacier escapes out into the ocean across the grounding line, and warm ocean water can melt it back from below. Icefin was designed with this kind of a project in mind —measuring the properties of the ice, ocean and seafloor where other vehicles and instruments cannot reach to map these changes in the underbelly of the glacier.”

Antarctica’s glaciers contribute to sea-level rise when more ice is lost to the ocean than is replaced by snow. To fully understand the causes of changes in ice flow requires research on the ice itself, the nearby ocean and the Antarctic climate in the region. In addition to Icefin, the program will deploy the most up-to-date instruments and techniques available, from drills that can make access holes 1,500 meters into the ice with jets of hot water to autonomous submarines like the Autobsub Long Range affectionately known around the world as Boaty McBoatface.

The nearest permanently occupied research station to the Thwaites Glacier is more than 1,000 miles away. Researchers on the ice will rely on aircraft support from American and British research stations. Oceanographers and geophysicists will approach the glacier from the sea in icebreaker ships. In addition to the United States and United Kingdom, the ITGC collaboration includes researchers from South Korea, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland.

December 31, 1969 |

New degree programs. More undergraduate admissions. Participation in Nobel Prize-winning research. A Tech Green solar eclipse watch party.

Paul Goldbart's five years as the Dean of the College of Sciences were highlighted by changes, growth, community-building, and opportunities. Goldbart, the College's Betsy Middleton and John Clark Sutherland Chair, talks about his time at Georgia Tech in this first installment of a two-part audio story that also serves as a preview for the forthcoming College of Sciences podcast, ScienceMatters.

This audio story is hosted and produced by College of Sciences Communications Officer Renay San Miguel. You can listen to the story by clicking on the image link to the right, or you can read the transcript below.

Part 2 will be available on May 16, 2018.

If you want to know more about ScienceMatters, click here.

 

Renay San Miguel: Hello. I’m Renay San Miguel with the Georgia Tech College of Sciences. By now, you may have learned that College of Sciences Dean Paul Goldbart has accepted a position to be the next dean of the College of Natural Sciences in the University of Texas at Austin. The Lone Star State’s gain is our loss. We are sad to see Paul go, and we thank him for his extraordinary service to the College of Sciences and to Georgia Tech.

I interviewed Paul in early 2018 for the premier episode of the College of Sciences’ podcast called “ScienceMatters.” With the new appointment in Texas, however, we’ve recast the interview into a two-part audio story to serve as a valedictory for Paul, as well as a preview of “ScienceMatters,” which will begin broadcasting later in 2018.

Here is Dean Paul Goldbart in his own words, and you can hear him as both engaging physics professor and forward-thinking administrator as he charts opportunities for growth of the Georgia Tech College of Sciences, and recalls the highlights of his tenure.

Essential, exciting research in astrobiology

Paul Goldbart: So let me begin with astrobiology. Once upon a time, that title sounded like a crank science. It’s really moved to center stage now, incredibly exciting. So we have folks really thinking about how to search for life in space and in time, looking out into the cosmos. Wouldn’t it be remarkable to find out where our neighboring colonies of life are? And we have communities looking at that from the aspects of biology and chemistry, from Earth and atmospheric sciences, and physics. We have people thinking about exoplanets, how you find and discover the properties of planets orbiting other stars. So tremendous range and tremendous interdisciplinarity.

We also have folks who are looking back in time. How did life start here on Earth? Wonderful activities in chemistry, Earth and atmospheric science and biology, looking at this tiny, thin sliver of a shell of life here on our remarkable planet, and people essentially doing the archaeology of the oceans: What was the chemical composition of the oceans back in time? Was there enough oxygen to sustain life? Folks working on that kind of really fundamental and incredibly exciting question.

So astrobiology is really central, and we have a thriving community. And it reaches out well beyond the College of Sciences—interacting with folks in the Ivan Allen College of the Humanities—wonderful community there and elsewhere on campus, too. So delighted to see that here at Georgia Tech.

Essential exciting research in microbial ecology

Let me turn to another area in the life sciences that I’m very excited about: the area of microbial ecology. There are microbes everywhere, all around us, and we live in this, hopefully, symbiotic relationship with them. And the study of microbial ecology is really taking shape quite wonderfully here with an emerging community of people from biological sciences, from chemistry, and from physics. And this subject needs tools all the way from genetics and biology, through game theory, physics and mathematics, all the way into medicine.

So just to give you a flavor of the subject how microbes, and then microbial infections, infect us, harm us, is really a question of the shape and structure of the colonies that they form. And so physicists are teaming up with biologists to understand the kind of materials that form through microbial infections. And this is taking us all the way from basic science through to wound care and all the way to healthcare and cystic fibrosis. So I must say, from my perspective, it’s incredibly exciting to see science, both at the fundamental level, but also reaching out into the community.

Renay San Miguel: And so many applications for what is being researched here. You know, as we have this conversation, we’re going through one of the worst flu epidemics that the country has seen in a long time and—but there are so many things that this would be applied to, you know, to warfare and treating wounds in battlefield, things like that. It’s just very exciting research.

Paul Goldbart: That’s right. And healthcare within hospitals — microbial infections arise in hospitals at an enormous rate. And so what’s so exciting is to look at this long arc of history and feel that we are the tip of the sphere and that the sphere, currently, in developing new knowledge and understanding to inform the healthcare of the future, and that’s a remarkable, remarkable place to be.

[Music]

Welcoming students with a celestial event

Renay San Miguel: Let’s talk about the eclipse.

[Applause and cheering]

Renay San Miguel: On August 21st, 2017, the first day of classes, thousands of members of the Georgia Tech community descended on Tech Green to watch the moon’s shadow cover 97 percent of the afternoon sun.

Georgia Tech student: I will always remember this because I saw the eclipse and started college on the same day at the best university.

Paul Goldbart: College of Sciences along with the Provost’s office put together a quite exquisite array of activities. Those of you who live in the Southeast might know of Woodstock, Georgia. This was a different kind of Woodstock. This was a remarkable event on campus.

We had thousands and thousands of people coming together, congregating, all inspired by an eclipse. And eclipses, of course, go back in history and they’ve had quite interesting sociological impacts ushering in new eras and so forth. And so to watch our community come and react—our community of scientists and mathematicians and technologists and engineers and others come together, but react in this wonderfully human way and enjoy this remarkable astronomical event was really wonderful.

And so just to see the community out there with this festival atmosphere was great. And the only concern, really, is what are we going to do next year? Really, it was a marvelous time.

[Music]

Helping to prove Einstein was right

Renay San Miguel: Tell me about gravitational waves. I mean the idea of the institute and some of the faculty and the researchers and students here involved in what would eventually be a Nobel Prize-winning effort had to be just so pleasing for you.

Paul Goldbart: Well this is very exciting. So I’ve been at Georgia Tech for about seven years, and astrophysics was launched here a little bit before I arrived and has really taken root quite beautifully with wonderful leadership initially from Pablo Laguna and now from Deidre Shoemaker.

But let me tell you a little bit about the story because the story really goes back now a little bit over 100 years: Albert Einstein has put together his masterpiece theory of what’s called “general relativity,” which is really the first successful post-Newtonian understanding of gravity.

And the remarkable shift in thinking that came about with Einstein in 1915 was the idea that space and time, themselves, have a kind of pliability or elasticity to them; they’re not just a rigid stage on which the history of the universe unfolds. But, they are, in their motions and changes, part of that story; they are actually actors, not just the stage.

And one of the predictions goes something like this: You may know that if you shake an electrical charge, out comes electromagnetic radiation. That, for example, is how when you heat an atom, it puffs off a little bit of light; that’s where we get the yellow of sodium lamps, for example. So shaking, charges. Electrical charges cause a ripple in the electromagnetic field that propagates outward, and that’s what we call light or, in other frequencies, different forms of radiation like X-rays or infrared radiation, just to give two examples.

After Einstein in 1915, we understood that the same kind of thing happens with mass. If you shake some mass somewhere in the universe, that mass actually causes a ripple. But now the ripple is not in the electromagnetic field, but it’s in space and time—the actual geometry of space and time themselves—and that ripple propagates out, and it takes a certain amount of time to arrive at a distance.

So, for example, if the sun were to magically disappear, we wouldn’t know it for the eight or so minutes that it would take for the gravitational field to change and respond to a new configuration, the one that would be there in the absence of the sun, at which time the planet, Earth, would fly off in a kind of tangential trajectory rather than its almost circular orbit.

Ripples through time and space

So the basic idea is that masses, when they move and they accelerate, they can give rise to a rippling in space and time that propagates like a wave, like the ripples that you find on the surface of a pond when you throw a stone in. The tough part of the story is that space and time are remarkably stiff, and so it takes very big masses to have a perceptible, measurable impact.

And where can you find big masses accelerating quickly? Well, you can find them in the mergers of black holes. So I remind you that black holes are stars that have collapsed under gravity so much so, that not even light, essentially, not even light can escape from them; that’s why they’re black.

They’re very, very dense objects. And they can come, occasionally, in pairs and they orbit around one another in the same way, roughly speaking, that the moon orbits around the Earth.

Now what happens is that these two black holes are moving around one another and, because of this idea of space and time having a kind of elasticity to them, that binary black hole system radiates out energy in the form of gravitational waves. And just a little bit like the yolks of two eggs frying in a frying pan, they move around one another and, eventually, in this cataclysmic event, they merge into a single yolk. Here, they merge into a single black hole, and as they do, they give out an astonishing amount of energy in the form of gravitational radiation which then propagates through the cosmos and that’s the way it goes—until LIGO.

Large instruments looking for small moves

And LIGO is this experiment, this collaboration—roughly 1,000 people working hand-in-glove, two stations: Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana, and there are experiments at both sites. And the reason there are two sites is that you want to understand coincidence. If a gravitational wave passes through one and then passes through the other, you know far they are apart and you know how long that ought to take, and you can really have a chance of finding the needle in the proverbial haystack of these very, very small signals.

So the experiment has been in the making for several decades, fantastic support from the federal government even though this is an incredibly challenging experiment to undertake, and I applaud the citizens of the United States for supporting this really heroic endeavor which, I think, is as much part of culture as it is a part of technology and science.

So the experiment goes like this: You have to detect this wave coming through. And what does the wave do? Well, it changes the shape of space and time, but it does so at a very small level. And just to give you a sense of the smallness of the changes that have to be detected, let me ask you to look at your pinkie. Look at your little finger and ask, how broad is the nail? Well, roughly speaking, it’s about a centimeter across, something like that. Now shrink down by about 8 powers of 10—so about 100 million— and that gets you to about the size of an atom—not enough. Now go down by another 8 powers of 10.

That gets you to about the size of a nucleus of an atom, but smaller: about a thousandth of the size of the nucleus of an atom. And that is the distance, or change in separation, between the detectors of the experiment in an evacuated tube about four kilometers long—one in Louisiana, one in Washington—that needed to be detected. Quite a challenge.

I’m told that it’s as if we knew the distance from Earth to the nearest star to within the thickness of a human hair.

Renay San Miguel: No! [Chuckles]

Paul Goldbart: I haven’t checked that calculation but it sounds a bit right to me. Quite a challenge. And this, nevertheless, was accomplished. Not only was it accomplished, but it was accomplished the day after the experiment was turned on — 20 years in the making. And it’s as if nature had conspired to send us this perfect signal.

Renay San Miguel: It was just waiting for us to build these instruments.

Paul Goldbart: Exactly. “Are you ready? Are you ready?” [Laughter] So to give you a sense of scale, the gravitational event, the merger of two black holes that was detected about two and a half years ago, and that wave has been propagating through space, waiting, [laughter] and arriving here at Earth to be detected.

Now, since then—and we say in science sometimes “Yesterday’s sensation, today’s calibration”—that event is one of several that have now been detected; it’s raining black hole mergers out there. And the most recent event, another truly stunning event much closer to Earth, was the signature of the collision—not now of two black holes, but of two neutron stars.

[Music]

Renay San Miguel: And that particular celestial collision would result in another major breakthrough for College of Science researchers. That, along with Paul Goldbart’s vision for the future of the College of Sciences, is coming up in Part 2 of this audio story. I’m Renay San Miguel with the Georgia Tech College of Sciences.

[Music]

December 31, 1969 |

A team of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers will head to West Antarctica next winter as part of an international collaboration to explore a melting glacier that could significantly affect global sea levels. The Thwaites Glacier drains the ice from an area roughly the size of Florida, accounting for around 4 percent of current global sea-level rise — an amount that has doubled since the mid-1990s and looks to be accelerating.

The Georgia Tech team will send Icefin, its home-built autonomous vehicle, through a borehole near the grounding line of the glacier to explore underneath the ice. This will allow it to map, for the first time ever, how the geology beneath the surface and the interactions between the ice and ocean water are affecting how the glacier is changing.

The mission is part of a $25 million international research collaboration led by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

This will be the fourth Antarctic voyage for Icefin, but the first to the remote glacier. In fact, only a few dozen people have ever stepped foot on Thwaites.

“Thwaites Glacier is one of the fastest changing regions in the Antarctic,” said Britney Schmidt, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences who leads the Icefin project. “With individual research programs, we can only investigate small parts of the system at a time. So much of West Antarctica may depend on the stability of Thwaites —  it’s a critical time to come together to explore the whole system to reveal whether it’s reached a tipping point. We’re thrilled to be a part of this incredible effort.”

The research program is called the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC). It includes   nine projects that will help scientists understand whether the glacier’s collapse could begin in the next few decades or centuries.

Icefin is one part of the MELT project, which is overseen by Keith Nicholls of the British Antarctic Survey and New York University’s David Holland. Investigators from Penn State, University of California Irvine and the University of Kansas are also involved. According to a joint press release from the NSF and NERC, MELT “will measure the melting at the ice-ocean interface of the glacier, to understand the processes involved and its potential for triggering increased sea-level rise.”

Icefin will use sonar to map the ice and sea floor and explore how the two are interacting. Its onboard cameras will also provide images of both areas. Icefin’s sensors will measure the temperature, depth and salinity of the water underneath the glacier to learn how and where the glacier is melting.

“The grounding line of a glacier is the place where it goes from sliding along the continent to floating in the ocean. This is where the glacier can become unstable,” said Schmidt. “Melt water from upstream under the glacier escapes out into the ocean across the grounding line, and warm ocean water can melt it back from below. Icefin was designed with this kind of a project in mind —measuring the properties of the ice, ocean and seafloor where other vehicles and instruments cannot reach to map these changes in the underbelly of the glacier.”

Antarctica’s glaciers contribute to sea-level rise when more ice is lost to the ocean than is replaced by snow. To fully understand the causes of changes in ice flow requires research on the ice itself, the nearby ocean and the Antarctic climate in the region. In addition to Icefin, the program will deploy the most up-to-date instruments and techniques available, from drills that can make access holes 1,500 meters into the ice with jets of hot water to autonomous submarines like the Autobsub Long Range affectionately known around the world as Boaty McBoatface.

The nearest permanently occupied research station to the Thwaites Glacier is more than 1,000 miles away. Researchers on the ice will rely on aircraft support from American and British research stations. Oceanographers and geophysicists will approach the glacier from the sea in icebreaker ships. In addition to the United States and United Kingdom, the ITGC collaboration includes researchers from South Korea, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Finland.

Portions of this article were taken from the full NSF-NERC press release.

AbGradCon (Astrobiology Graduate Conference) provides a unique setting for astrobiology-inclined graduate students and early-career researchers to come together to share their research, collaborate, and network. AbGradCon 2018 marks the 14th year of this conference, each time in a different place and organized by a different group of students and postdoctoral researchers, but always with the original charter as a guide.

Because it is organized and attended by only graduate students, postdocs, and select undergraduates, AbGradCon is an ideal venue for the next generation of career astrobiologists to form bonds, share ideas, and discuss the issues that will shape the future of the field. Take a look at the AbGradCon 2017 conference website to see what's happened in the past.

George Tan, a Ph.D. student of Amanda Stockton in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, chairs the AbGradCon 2018 organizing committee, comprising the following Ph.D. students and postdocs: 

               Marcus Bray                    Justin Lawrence
               Bradley Burcar                 Adriana Lozoya
               Anthony Burnetti              Kennda Lynch
               Heather Chilton               Santiago Mestre Fos
               Chase Chivers                 Marshall Seaton
               Dedra Eichstedt               Micah Schaible
               Zachary Duca                  Elizabeth Spiers
               Jennifer Farrar                 Scot Sutton
               Nicholas Kovacs              Nadia Szeinbaum

Full information is available at the AbGradCon 2018 website. View the AbGradCon 2018 program here.

This popular meeting for students is funded primarily by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. The organizers have also received support from the following:

  • ACS Publications
  • ELSI, Earth Life Science Institute 
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • John Templeton Foundation
  • Nature Publications
  • Simons Foundation

Event Details

Date/Time:

December 31, 1969 |

Editor's Note: This story by Melissa Fralick originally appeared as part of the special feature "Campus Without Borders," in the Spring 2018 Issue of Georgia Tech's Alumni Magazine.

IF THERE IS LIFE ANYWHERE ELSE IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM, Britney Schmidt knows it’s likely to be found on Europa, one of Jupiter’s largest moons.

Europa has a lot in common with our planet. Like the Earth, it has an iron core, a rocky mantle, and a salt water ocean—though Europa’s ocean is encased under an ice shell up to 15 miles thick. 

But as of yet, no spacecraft has explored beneath the icy surface.

Schmidt, who is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, hopes to change that. She and her team of Tech students and researchers are testing a modular autonomous vehicle, called Icefin, which they hope will one day lead to driving vehicles under Europa’s ice. 

But before they’re able to launch Icefin into space and land on Europa, they’re working here on Earth’s iciest region: Antarctica. Antarctica provides the perfect environment for testing, because it mimics many of the conditions expected to be found on Europa. 

Vast ice shelves? Check. A deep, salty ocean below? Check. Challenging to navigate? Check.

“Astronauts go out and learn geology on Earth before they go to the moon or before they’ll go operate on Mars,” Schmidt says. “So that’s kind of what we’re doing here— a spacecraft mission under the ice before we go and attempt that on Europa.” 

Schmidt and a team of researchers, including graduate students Justin Lawrence, Dan Dichek, Ben Hurwitz and Chad Ramey, along with research engineer Matt Meister, ME 15,  returned to campus this January following a three-month field season, during which they successfully operated a new version of Icefin under Antarctica’s McMurdo Ice Shelf for the first time. The missile-shaped vehicle, which is 12 feet in length and 9 inches in diameter, was designed to be small and modular enough to transport onto remote ice shelves, but sophisticated enough to carry a variety of scientific instruments and sensors. It can be driven under the ice remotely, like a remote-controlled car, or programmed to drive autonomously. 

The team includes students from various disciplines who bring their expertise to the project. For example, Lawrence is working toward a PhD in planetary science, while Hurwitz is part of a new PhD program at Tech in ocean sciences and engineering. 

“The engineers and scientists work really closely, which is fantastic for field work,” Lawrence says. 

Before their recent fieldwork with Icefin, all scientific data from the massive Ross Ice Shelf, which is roughly the size of France, came from just three drill holes.

“We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about under the Ross Ice Shelf,” Hurwitz says. 

Schmidt says that over the course of this Icefin project—a collaboration with a New Zealand research team—exploring through three additional holes drilled into the Ross Ice Shelf will more than double the data previously available. 

“And with the vehicle, it’s a type of data that we’ve never been able to get, which is driving around and mapping what’s going on under there for a few kilometers on either side of the access point,” Schmidt says. 

While their field work in Antarctica serves as a dry run for a future mission to Europa, Schmidt and her students are also advancing science here on Earth by exploring uncharted territory deep under the ice. 

“Antarctica is the most beautiful, most inspiring, and hardest place to work that I have ever been. You just feel so small and insignificant and like you’re so lucky to be there in that minute. And I imagine that’s what it would be like if you were standing on the surface of Europa.”

“This field season was spectacularly successful from an engineering standpoint,” Hurwitz says. “But we also got much more science data than we could have expected.”

During their recent trip, Icefin’s footage revealed a surprising diversity of life deep under the ice , Schmidt says. A seal bumped into the vehicle at a depth of 200 to 250 meters. The craft also encountered a rare, giant Antarctic fish called a toothfish. 

Icefin was able to travel to the sea floor at a depth of almost 800 meters. Plus, the team was able to navigate the vehicle under a rift in the ice shelf and discovered ice caves that were likely formed by cold water flowing down the rift. 

“Much of what we saw this time around no one has ever seen before,” Schmidt says. “It’s cool because the vehicle has gone deeper than, as far as we know, any other vehicle in the area has ever gone and way deeper than divers can go. So all this work is really, really new.”

Lawrence, who’s been working with Schmidt since 2015, was excited to view the ocean floor.

“It was incredible to see it for the first time with a vehicle that we built,” he says. 

This was Schmidt’s fifth season in Antarctica, and she’s already planning next year’s trip, when the team will focus on Icefin’s automated process and gathering much more science data. She refers to the trips as seasons, because the team typically spends around three months each year in the field during the Antarctic spring and summer.

“It’s a weird way to live,” she says. “You’re spending a quarter of your life down there, and then you’re spending the other three quarters of it planning to be down there. I’m always in the field, whether it’s physical or mental.”

Schmidt’s graduate students say they feel fortunate to be part of such groundbreaking research.

“It’s not a common thing and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I’m thankful that there is so much support for this kind of work,” Lawrence says.

Humans may never step foot on the surface of Europa, and an unmanned mission to the icy moon likely won’t happen for another few decades. But until then, Schmidt says she feels lucky to be able to spend her time working in Antarctica to advance the search for life in the cosmos.

“Antarctica is the most beautiful, most inspiring, and hardest place to work that I have ever been,” Schmidt says. “You just feel so small and insignificant and like you’re so lucky to be there in that minute. That is how I feel every day that I walk out there. And I imagine that’s what it would be like if you were standing on the surface of Europa.”

December 31, 1969 |

Particle emissions from multiple fused deposition modeling consumer 3D printers were systematically quantified utilizing an established emission testing protocol (Blue Angel) to allow quantitative exposure assessments for printers operating in different environments. The data are consistent with particle generation from volatilization of the polymer filament as it is heated by the extruder. Typically, as printing begins, a burst of new particle formation leads to the smallest sizes and maximum number concentrations produced throughout the print job. For acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) filaments, instantaneous concentrations were up to 106 #/cm3 with mean particle sizes of 20 to 40 nm when measured in a well mixed 1 m3 chamber with 1 air change per hour.

Particles are continuously formed during printing and the size distribution evolves consistent with vapor condensation and particle coagulation. Particles emitted per mass of filament consumed (particle yield) varied widely due to factors including printer brand, and type and brand of filament. Higher extruder temperatures result in larger emissions. For filament materials tested, average particle number yields ranged from 7.3 × 108 to 5.2 × 1010 g−1 (approximately 0.65 to 24 ppm), with trace additives apparently driving the large variations. Nanoparticles (diameters less than 100 nm) dominate number distributions, whereas diameters in the range of 200 to 500 nm contribute most to estimated mass. Because 3D printers are often used in public spaces and personal residences, the general public and particularly susceptible populations, such as children, can be exposed to high concentrations of non-engineered nanoparticles of potential toxicity.

Copyright © 2017 American Association for Aerosol Research

EDITOR: Jing Wang

Tenured-Track Faculty Positions in Solid Earth Geosciences and Planetary Sciences

Applicants will be considered at all ranks. For the solid earth geosciences positions, we are looking for broad-minded geoscientists with interests that complement our current geophysical strengths in geodesy, geomorphology, glaciology, seismology, computational methods, planetary and space sciences.

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