The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Postdoctoral Scholars Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) invites applications for a postdoctoral research position in JPL’s Planetary Ices Group. Dr. Laurie Barge will serve as JPL postdoctoral advisor to the selected candidate. The appointee will carry out research in collaboration with the JPL advisor, resulting in publications in the open literature. The “Becoming Biotic” project, funded by the NSF-NASA Ideas Lab for the Origins of Life, aims to provide the first direct examination of hypotheses regarding the emergence of metabolic pathways. The goal is to attempt to recapitulate ancient metabolic pathways by replacing protein enzymes with non-protein catalysts in early Earth conditions. The two-year project will consist of tasks conducted in a multi-institution effort between JPL, University of Southern California, and Oberlin College. Frequent communication and coordination will be required with the USC/Oberlin Co-I’s and their postdocs and students. The successful candidate will: 1. Identify a set of early Earth conditions under which we will test whether the cofactors can drive metabolic reactions. This will be done jointly with Co-I’s at USC and Oberlin. 2. Test individual cofactors for their ability to catalyze metabolic reactions in the absence of protein enzymes. This Task will also involve the development of synthesis procedures for organic and inorganic cofactors. 3. Measure the kinetics of cofactor-driven reactions for a set of ancient metabolic pathways under several early Earth conditions. 4. Recapitulate an ancient metabolic pathway under several early Earth conditions using cofactors without protein enzymes. Candidates should have a recent Ph.D. in chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, geochemistry or related fields. Most important is direct experience in protein cofactor chemistry outside of cellular environments, mineral synthesis, and anoxic chemical synthesis methods. Candidates should have experience working with analytical methods (particularly 1H liquid NMR) and working with hazardous chemicals (e.g. thioacetic acid, hydrogen sulfide).
The International Geobiology Course is an intense, multidisciplinary summer course that explores the co-evolution of the Earth and it’s biosphere, with an emphasis on how microbial processes affect the environment and leave imprints in the rock record. Participants get a hands-on learning experience in cutting-edge geobiological techniques including molecular biology, microbiology, geochemistry, and sedimentology and work in research groups to solve real research questions.
Themes for this years’ course include:
- Molecular biology and biogeochemistry of Mono Lake, with an emphasis on sulfur cycle processes in this unusual alkaline lake.
- Microbiology and molecular biology of organisms living in sulfidic and/or hydrocarbon-rich environments.
- Mineral, sedimentologic, and geochemical evidence for life in ancient rocks of the Monterey Formation.
This year the course will be directed by Alex Sessions, Woody Fischer, Victoria Orphan, and Hope Johnson, but remains in a format similar to previous years. It begins with a field trip up the eastern Sierra Nevada to visit hot springs, Cambrian rocks, and Mono Lake, and back down to the coast near Ventura to study sulfur springs and tar seeps, and a world-famous exposure of the Monterey Formation. Two weeks of lab rotations at Caltech will introduce students to cutting-edge analytical techniques, followed by two weeks at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island.
The 2017 course is open to graduate students and postdocs at any level. The cost of the course is US$4000. This year, two fellowships are available to help support postdocs trained in other fields who wish to enter geobiology as a new field of study.
Applications due February 10, 2017.