Available Projects – Summer 2019

Applications for the 2019 Online Young Scientist Program have closed.

BMSIS provides opportunities for college students to participate as Young Scientists with our institute, providing opportunities to participate in basic research and learn about science communication. Young Scientists conduct supervised research under direct supervision by a BMSIS mentor. The Young Scientist may work on-site or remotely, depending on the needs of the project, mentor, and Young Scientist. Funding is available for some projects (see the list below) but not all. Young Scientist positions will last nominally a maximum of three months. Funded positions may last longer.

BMSIS Young Scientists will write a written report of their research. This report may be used in a variety of applications, including (but not limited to): undergraduate project/thesis, conference proceedings, peer-reviewed journal, magazine/newspaper article, writing samples for job applications. BMSIS Young Scientists will be expected to present the results of their research either internally (to a larger audience of BMSIS scientists using virtual communication tools) or externally (to a larger audience of scientists at an academic conference).

BMSIS Young Scientists will also be paired with a communication mentor to help develop their skills in science communication. The Young Scientist Program includes required modules in science communication as well as ethics and society with guidance from their research and communication mentors. Young Scientists also will attend monthly BMSIS seminars and may have other opportunities to participate in BMSIS activities.

Upon successful completion of the Young Scientist Program and required modules, BMSIS Young Scientists shall receive a certificate of completion. Alumni from the Young Scientist Program may also receive requests for follow-up program evaluation. Applications for the Young Scientist Program will be accepted on a rolling basis with limited available positions, so interested applicants are encouraged to apply or contact us for more information.

Eligibility

  • Currently seeking a degree at a 4-year university or a community college (with high school or equivalent complete)
  • At least 18 years of age
  • Able to dedicate at least 5 hrs per week during normal business hours for the duration of the program (time requirements may depend on project)
  • Provide proof of eligibility to work in the country of the Young Scientist Program
  • May be required to allow a background check in order to obtain security clearance (e.g. if needed to obtain a badge at a NASA center)
  • May not be a current US government employee or a civil servant
  • BMS cannot sponsor travel or work visas to the United States

Important Dates for the 2019 YSP

  • March 1, 2019 – Applications open
  • April 15, 2019 – Applications close
  • May 1, 2019 – Decisions communicated to applicants
  • June 1, 2019 – YSP begins
  • September 30, 2019 – YSP ends

Application Requirements

  • Contact one or more BMSIS scientists expressing specific interests about listed projects (see list below) by sending inquiries to apply@bmsis.org. Please include a thoughtful message of introduction.
  • atisfy any eligibility requirements specified by the BMS YSP and the “Special Skills” section of the project to be considered for the project
  • Complete the online BMSIS Young Scientist application form
  • Submit an unofficial copy of your collegiate transcript to apply@bmsis.org
  • Gave two letters of recommendation sent to apply@bmsis.org
  • Write a 300 word statement of interest in the project you are applying for, sent to apply@bmsis.org
BMSIS InvestigatorProject TitleDescriptionLocationSpecial Skills
Dr. Milena Popovic
null
Interaction of iron-bearing minerals with RNAInteractions between mineral surfaces and organic molecules are thought to have played key roles in the emergence of life. Iron-bearing mineral surfaces catalyze a variety of chemical reactions. Bioinorganic structures essential to metabolism in modern biology bear a striking resemblance to some of these iron minerals. Iron-bearing mineral surfaces have also been shown to adsorb, concentrate and protect, and oligomerize ribonucleic acids (RNA). However, little is known about the sequence and structure dependence of RNA-mineral binding. In order to test the sequence and structural dependence of RNA binding to iron-bearing minerals, we performed in vitro selection experiments involving RNA oligomers of 20 nucleotides in length and fully randomized sequence in the presence of redox-active minerals. The selected populations were sequenced using high-throughput sequencing. The student/s will be involved in the bioinformatics analysis of the sequenced populations and biochemical and biophysical investigations of the sequences of interest.
Financial assistance can be available for this position. For a paid internship, applicants must be already authorized to legally work in the United States at the time of application. Travel funding to/from San Francisco, CA is not provided.
San Francisco Bay Area (NASA Ames)Completed General Chemistry and Biochemistry courses (ideally, but not required).
Dr. Andro Rios
null
Prebiotic Chemistry of Meteoritic CompoundsCarbonaceous chondrite meteorites are important to the field of astrobiology because the molecules they contain provide a record to the organic chemistry that took place in the early Solar System before the emergence of life on Earth. Our lab has previously discovered that molecules of metabolism are formed in meteorites and their abiotic syntheses may be a strong clue to the origin of metabolism. We are currently investigating the reaction pathways of these versatile molecules to understand their plausible role in prebiotic chemistry and the origin of life. A significant part of this research depends on the synthetic preparation of non-commercially available small molecules that can be used as analytical standards for meteoritic analyses and reaction studies. We are looking for one student who lives near Ames and can work in our labs. The student will either help carry out the synthetic preparation of certain target compounds or perform experiments to understand the reactivity of these prebiotic compounds. Students with backgrounds in chemistry, biochemistry or biology and who have completed the typical undergraduate courses in organic chemistry and associated labs are encouraged to apply.
Financial assistance is possible upon completion of the YSP certificate. Applicant must be already authorized to legally work in the United States at the time of application. Travel funding to/from San Francisco, CA is not provided.
San Francisco Bay Area (NASA Ames)Completed General Chemistry and labs / Completed Organic chemistry and labs (one or two semesters) /Skilled in chemistry lab techniques (those taught in organic chemistry especially)
Dr. Betul Kacar
null
Utilizing contemporary biology to reconstruct ancient biosignaturesOne of the fundamental challenges inherent to the search for life in the universe is that we are able to conduct observations at relatively large stellar and planetary scales, but we are seeking to detect a phenomenon that manifests and maintains itself at molecular and microscopic scales- so small that it's difficult to directly observe even when located right in front of us, let alone if when we are looking across the vastness of interstellar distances. Linking the history of different modes of biological innovations and environmental states to planetary-scale signatures facilitates an expanded reconstruction of biosignatures that may be detected or inferred across interstellar distances of observation. This project aims to connect the genotype of modern microbes with their phenotype through a multidisciplinary (evolutionary, synthetic and systems level) laboratory and computational approach.
Financial assistance is available for this position. Applicant must be already authorized to legally work in the United States at the time of application. Travel funding to/from Tucson, AZ is not provided.
Tucson, AZ (University of Arizona)Background in molecular and cell biology, basic programming in any language, skills and experience with sterile laboratory techniques.
Dr. Omer Markovitch
null
Simulating Evolvable Systems of Molecular Self-ReplicatorsCan we use labaratory chemistry for de-novo life and will it help us understand the origins of life?. One way to understand the transition from inanimate matter to life is to study minimal systems that capture some of the key characteristics of life and infer from them how life operates. Focusing on what is largely accepted as one the most important characteristics of life – self-replication – a relatively simple chemical system that gives rise to self-replication has been reported. Further reported experiments highlighted that these replicators may have the potential for undergoing Darwinian-type evolution, which is important if one wants to think beyond the origins of life towards more evolved life. Very recently a mathematical model of the entire system’s dynamics was successfully formulated, capturing all the reactions that occur and obeying how concentrations of all the chemical species are changing in the system, in a quantitative manner. The model is given in the form of differential equations representing rates.
In this project you will explore the model's behavior under different conditions, searching for behaviors that could be verified experimentally. Alternatively, you may further develop the model by asking how can it be simplified in a manner that would make sure its key features still hold.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineBasic programming knowledge in any language.
Dr. Jim Cleaves
null
Planetary Nitrogen CyclingWe are constructing a planet-scale model of non-biological nitrogen cycling based on integrating measured and modeled rates of chemical and geological processes. This study will be of importance for constraining the types of planet scale chemical processes that might have contributed to the origins of life and for the detection of planet scale biosignatures on exoplanets. The project may include atmospheric chemistry modeling using the software package KROME, mass balance partitioning of nitrogen between different reservoirs and general data analysis.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
Online, Washington, DC, or it may be possible for the person selected to relocate on a paid basis to Japan for the summer if desired.Programming in Python and C++ and/or Fortran90. General familiarity with chemistry and Earth-systems processes would be helpful.
Dr. Jim Cleaves
null
Dr. Chris Butch
null
In Silico Modeling of Network Autocatalysis to Understand the Origins of LifeWe are trying to build a more chemically sound in silico model of chemical network autocatalysis for understanding the origins of life, that takes into account molecular shape and realistic surface interactions between molecules.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
Online, Washington, DC, or it may be possible for the person selected to relocate on a paid basis to Japan for the summer if desired.Programming skills in Python or other computer languages. General knowledge of chemistry and organic chemistry would also be helpful.
Dr. Jim Cleaves
null
Dr. Chris Butch
null
Construction of a Massive In Silico Mass Spectral Fragmentation Library for Exploration of Solar System Organics We have generated a massive in silico library of small organic molecules for use as a reference for solar system exploration. We hope to generate a mass spectrometry fragmentation library from this database, which will be useful for remote exploration and measurement of organic chemistry on solar system bodies including Mars, Enceladus, Europa and Titan, among others.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
Online, Washington, DC, or it may be possible for the person selected to relocate on a paid basis to Japan for the summer if desired.Programming skills in Python or other computer languages. General knowledge of organic chemistry and the principles of mass spectrometry would also be helpful.
Dr. Dimitra Atri
null
Radiation and its effects on astronaut health in long-term space missionsAstronauts are exposed to an increased amount of radiation during long-term space missions in outer space. I have a number of projects where students will compute radiation doses using simple tools to understand and estimate the effects of long-term radiation exposure on astronaut health. We will focus on the Low Earth Orbit, transit to Mars, and radiation exposure on the Martian surface.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineBasic programming knowledge in any language
Dr. Dimitra Atri
null
ExoAI: Exploratory data analysis using Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning in Exoplanet Science
Exoplanets or Extra-solar planets are planets beyond the Solar System. Exoplanet Science is the most exciting field in astronomy today and has transformed the fields of planetary science and astrobiology. This project aims to use Machine Learning techniques to analyze and understand exoplanet data from a number of space missions. Basic programming experience in Python is required. Prior experience in Machine Learning or Astronomy is not required. The candidate will be provided with ML tools and is expected to learn them and assist in preliminary data analysis.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineBasic programming knowledge in any language
Dr. Rafael Loureiro
null
NEBULA (Narrow Band radiation influence in oxygenic photosynthetic organisms’ ecophysiology)Evaluate the influence of narrow-band to intense red (above 750nm) radiation and pulse combinations (e.g. blue light pulses; green light pulses) on microalgae species in order to determine an optimum lighting system for each species with the purpose of achieving maximum production capabilities (i.e. Biomass and side products and effects) in enclosed cultivation facilities for human space colonization, as well as, gathering data for a pattern recognition model for the detection of extraterrestrial bio-signatures that uses spectral characteristics in the form of planetary hemispherical reflectance readings on phylogenetically diverse microorganisms containing a range of pigments. This data will be used to populate and validate a reliable pattern recognition model of likeness of individuals. The process effectively allows the determination of non-Earth based life by the use of spectral readings thus reducing or eliminating the risk and cost of sending probes to evaluate alien life.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineProgramming skills in any language (Python is a plus)/ Basic knowledge of algae ecology-physiology/ Availability for weekly online meetings.
Dr. Sanjoy Som
null
Dr. Eddie Schwieterman
null
The impacts of low pressure on predicted habitable exoplanet trace gas compositionsThere is emerging evidence that early Earth maintained substantially lower total pressures than that of the modern day. However, most computer simulations of exoplanets similar to Earth in the habitable zone of their host stars have assumed a standard 1 bar atmosphere. Predictions of trace gas compositions from these simulations inform the detectability of gases having biological interest with future space and ground-based observatories. In this project, we will re-test previous calculations of trace gas abundances for Earth twins orbiting a range of stellar host stars including FGKM types when considering lower total atmospheric masses and pN2 values. The Young Scientist Program participant will be trained in using the existing software 'Atmos' to perform these calculations.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineLimited prior programming knowledge would be beneficial but is not mandatory.
Dr. Sanjoy Som
null
Crystal Riley
null
WebApp development
This goal of this summer project is to build a frontend webapp to display the images taken by the "One Flag In Space" community. The "One Flag In Space" Initiative of Blue Marble Space promotes the image of the Blue Marble as an international symbol for space exploration. The frontend will serve as a central showcase and promotion for the "One Flag In Space" Initiative. The YSP participant will work closely with Sanjoy Som and Crystal Riley for this software engineering project to build a React.js frontend on top of Node.js backend.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineJavascript and SQL experience is highly recommended
Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra
null
Dr. Sanjoy Som
null
Modeling atmospheric pressure on Earth through timeEarth has maintained habitable conditions across its 4 billion year history, but the composition of Earth's atmosphere has changed substantially over time. This project will investigate changes in atmospheric pressure over Earth's history as driven by changes in constituents such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrogen, and oxygen. We will use the Vplanet computational model to investigate the contributions of a wide range of Earth system processes to changes in total atmospheric pressure.
Financial assistance is unavailable for this position.
onlineProgramming skills in Python