2019 Georgia Tech Exploration and Origins Colloquium

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This interdisciplinary colloquium and networking event has two goals: (1) to forge connections across Georgia Tech straddling the boundaries between technology development and hypothesis testing in the search for life’s beginnings and (2) to explore collaborative ideas among participants.

The event has two sections: (1) space exploration technology and planetary science and (2) the chemistry and biology of the origins and the search for life. The event comprises presentations and talks by early-career scientists – graduate students, undergraduates, and postdoctoral fellows – working in the exciting fields of space and planetary science, engineering, and astrobiology across Georgia Tech and greater Atlanta.

Confirmed Plenary Speakers

Distinguished members of the global astrobiology community will deliver plenary lectures. Confirmed speakers include:

Kevin Hand is a deputy project scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He founded the nonprofit organization Cosmos Education and was its president until 2007.

As a planetary scientist and astrobiologist, his research focuses on numerical modeling, laboratory experiments, and instrument development to advance our understanding of the physics and chemistry of icy moons in the outer solar system. He is also interested in characterizing the connection between terrestrial cryosphere processes and the climate change record.

He is currently involved in projects connected to NASA’s Europa mission which will conduct detailed investigation on whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

Sara Walker is an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University (ASU). She is deputy director of ASU’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and associate director of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute Center for Biosocial Complex Systems.

She co-founded the astrobiology-themed social website SAGANet and is a member of the board of directors of Blue Marble Space Institute of Science.

Her work centers on in the origin of life and how to find life on other worlds. She is most interested in whether there are “laws of life” – related to how information structures the physical world – that could universally describe life here Earth and other planets.

She is active in public engagement in science, with appearances at the World Science Festival, the television series “Through the Wormhole,” and the public radio program “Science Friday.”

Paul Steffes is a professor in the Georgia Tech School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He performed his doctoral research at Stanford University, where he concentrated on microwave radio occultation experiments using the Voyager and Mariner spacecraft, with specific interest in microwave absorption in planetary atmospheres.

In 1982, he joined the faculty of Georgia. His research, focusing on microwave and millimeter-wave remote sensing and radio astronomy, has been sponsored by NASA, NSF, the SETI Institute, and industry.

He has been involved with numerous NASA missions, including Pioneer-Venus, Magellan, the Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS), the High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS), and Juno (Jupiter Polar Orbiter).

Registration and Abstract Submission

Registration for the 2019 Exploration and Origins Colloquium is open. Please note:

  • Abstracts must be no more than 2000 characters including spaces.
  • Abstracts will be accepted as written, so please check for spelling and grammar.
  • No e-mails or PDF uploads are allowed.

To submit an abstract and register as a presenter, click here.

For general registration (for those who are not presenters), click here.


Keynote and oral presentations will take place in room 1005, Krone Engineered Biosystems Building (EBB), 950 Atlantic Drive, NW, Atlanta. GA 30332.

The poster session and networking event will be in held in the first- and second-floor atriums of the Molecular Science and Engineering Building (MoSE), 901 Atlantic Drive NW, Atlanta, GA 30318.

For more information, visit the website here. For other questions, contact us

Organizing Committee

  • Peter Colin, postdoctoral fellow, School of Biological Sciences
  • Zijian Li, Ph.D. student, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Tyler Roche, Ph.D. student, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Micah Schaible, postdoctoral fellow, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Pengxiao Xu, Ph.D. student, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
  • George Zaharescu, postdoctoral fellow, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Faculty Advisor: Martha Grover, professor, School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering


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