Help secure the future of the Iceland and Hawaii Astrobiology Summer Schools!

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!

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I attended the Nordic-NASA Winter School last January 2014 (UHNAI 2014) and it was one of the best experiences in my career. The lectures were excellent and, as a geomicrobiologist, I learned a lot about astronomy, planetary science and geology, which helped me put my own research into perspective and write a solid thesis dissertation. We went to a couple of incredible day trips to admire the beauty of the geological phenomena that shape the islands and performed remote observations from the telescopes at Mauna Kea. The most interesting part to me was, however, meeting the participants, enthusiastic early-career astrobiologists from different disciplines and countries, and learning about all the original research they were doing in their respective fields united by the word "astrobiology". Being in such unique location and stimulating atmosphere brought the participants and the lecturers together and networking just happened spontaneously. I am still in touch with many of them, chatting about Science and more, and getting great help for my postdoc hunt.
I feel really lucky for the opportunity of having participated in one edition of the Astrobiology Schools and I can only say BIG thanks to the organizers that made it possible. I do hope this excellent educational program continues in the future! The Astrobiology Schools are a great investment for the international astrobiology community. The networking made at such events leads to long-term connections and interdisciplinary collaborations, that translate into new discoveries, publications and the concession of more funding for astrobiology.

Group picture UHNAI 2014

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.



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