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|Horizontal Gene Transfer and LUCA Conference|
UK Space Agency announces £2M funding awards for astrobiology and planetary science
The UKSA has announced nine funding awards, totalling £2M, for science associated with Mars exploration. This scheme will enhance the UK’s science capabilities; help us to understand the Martian environment and to search for traces of past and present life.
Two of the awards will enable UK researchers to benefit from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission. The new American rover, ‘Curiosity,’ is due to land on the Red Planet in August 2012, and will deliver vital data for scientists assessing the viability of life on the planet.
Fellowships were awarded to Dr Lewis Dartnell to move to the University of Leicester and Dr Karen Olsson-Francis of the Open University, both of whom sit on the committee for the Astrobiology Society of Britain, and Dr Pete Grindrod of University College London. Each Fellow will work for three years on key scientific questions focused on the search for life on Mars. Dr Dartnell said “I’m absolutely delighted with this award. The fellowship will allow me to really focus on research. Raman is particularly exciting as it can spot signs of extreme life in the most hostile environments on Earth – and has lots of other applications, like detecting drugs – but has not yet been deployed on a planetary mission.
Charles Cockell from the University of Edinburgh, Mark Sephton from Imperial College London and Mark Price of the University of Kent all received awards to support their work, looking respectively at the habitability of Mars; the application of Mars-bound instruments in Earth-based experiments; and the chemistry of meteor and comet impacts on the Martian surface. Axel Hagermann of the Open University received an award to enable his study of the Martian polar caps, and the potential of these regions to support life.
For a full list of the successful principal investigators, project titles, and awarded funds, see the UKSA announcement
Open University, 5-6 September 2013
Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) (Freeman, 1951; Syvanen, 1996) is the transfer and/or exchange of genetic material largely between micro-organisms. It is ubiquitous in nature and occurs independently of reproduction.
The idea that HGT was occurring at the time of the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) was first suggested by Forterre (2010) and evidence is mounting to support this hypothesis. The discussion scope of this conference is extensive enough so as to encompass all five mechanisms mentioned above as well as other areas of research, such as the main hypotheses relating to the origins of life.
To ensure we present a wide variety of stimulating information, we are calling for short abstracts and/or posters from the following disciplines: virologists, bacteriologists, microbiologists, geneticists, biochemists, chemists, geochemists, astrochemists, astrobiologists and evolutionary biologists.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 07 April 2013 18:34|