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Heising-Simons Foundation Funds Six Scientists Looking for Signatures of Life in the Universe

The Heising-Simons Foundation’s Science program has made a suite of grants totaling $550,000 to support six scientists working on projects that originated in a Scialog program entitled “Signatures of Life in the Universe,” convened by Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

Short for “science + dialog,” the 2023 Scialog program brought together 50 early-career scientists in astronomy, microbiology, chemistry, planetary science, and geology to generate cutting edge projects to gain fundamental understanding of habitability of planets, detection of life beyond Earth, and life in extreme environments on Earth or in Earth’s distant past. The 2023 Scialog program was supported in part by the Foundation’s Science program.

Among this year’s participants were six 51 Pegasi b fellowship program alumni––Katherine De Kleer, Peter Gao, Malena Rice, Jason Wang, Songhu Wang, and Xinting Yu––all of whom are faculty members at universities and research institutions across the United States.

Visit the Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s website for the full announcement, and see below for the list of researchers supported by the Foundation with a total of $550,000 in grants:

    • Nagissa Mahmoudi, McGill University

Project: The Power is in the Poop: Experimental Investigation of Microbially-Generated Organics as a Biosignature for Ocean Worlds

    • Jennifer Bergner, University of California, Berkeley; and Christopher Glein, Southwest Research Institute

Project: A Close Look at the Habitability of Water Worlds

    • Malena Rice, Yale University; and Leslie Rogers, University of Chicago

Project: Investigating the Biological Potential of Moons in the Uranus System

    • Peter Gao, Carnegie Institution for Science; and Chenguang Sun, University of Texas at Austin

Project: Constraining Volatile Budgets in Small Exoplanets through Coupled Petrological and Atmospheric Modeling and Observations

    • Greg Fournier, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Funded Project: Sulfur Assimilation: A Novel Proxy for Redox Transitions in the Early Biosphere

    • Paul Bracher, Saint Louis University; and Christopher Hamilton, University of Arizona

Project: Rocky Roads: Flow Pathways and Chemical Evolution in Vesicular Lava and Pumice