Hello early-career astrobiologists!
The new institutes recently funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute represent an exciting path for astrobiology, but these new directions challenge the continuation of the Iceland and Hawaii Astrobiology Summer and Winter schools as the institutes leading the efforts were *not* renewed.
Having personally participated in the Iceland 2012 school, I know first hand how great this school was not only in terms of astrobiology education, but to see first hand unique sites of astrobiological relevance, and connect with astrobiologists from across the world.
In an effort to communicate the benefit of these schools to NASA management, it would be wonderful if you could include, below, how the summer schools have benefited you and your career. These messages will be used to seek funding to ensure the continuation of these amazing educational opportunities for early-career astrobiologists.
Thanks for your help!
I attended the January 2014 UHNAI-Nordic Astrobiology Winter School in Hawaii and it was a wonderful experience. The blend of intensive astrobiology-focused lectures with informal discussions among a crowd of talented young scientists was a terrific career-building experience. And it was all topped off with the volcanic setting, which included long guided walks through the recent flows.
I've attended several other educational weeks-long short-courses and the UHNAI Winter School stands out. I've maintained connections with my peers from this program over the year, and expect to continue to do so in hopes of forming collaborations in the near-future. In short, the UHNAI Winter School program is critical to building the next generation astrobiology scientific community; funding for this program should continue by any means possible.
I attended the NAI-Nordic 2009 Astrobiology Summer School in Iceland, and like everyone else who has commented, had a truly exceptional experience. For me the summer school was a turning point, launching my astrobiology career, and leading me to my current position working on developing in situ instruments at JPL.
I think I echo everyone else when I say that probably the most amazing part of the experience is the community of people who organize, teach, and attend the summer schools. My experience at the summer school, and it kindred spirit activity AbGradCon, led me to help organize AbGradCon at Caltech/JPL in 2012 while I was a Postdoc because I wanted to contribute to the strong community fostered by these events.
The relationships developed by the summer schools are critical to such an interdisciplinary field as Astrobiology, and I am certain that the friends and colleagues I first met in Iceland will continue to be part of my life and career for a long time to come. Multiply this by all of the participants in these summer schools and you have one of the best connected groups of international researchers in any discipline, an achievement to be very proud of.