NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab invites CSUN Biology students to a workshop studying bioinformatics — in space!

CSUN students with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an interest in life beyond our world are invited to apply to join a 3-day workshop on DNA for NASA’s Planetary Protection Program. Planetary Protection ensures that spacecraft sent to other planets to search for alien life don’t accidentally introduce Earth microbes to those other worlds in the process. DNA sequencing methods are integral to catching microbial hitchhikers before they leave the planet.

Every day JPL engineers survey and document microorganisms present on spacecraft during assembly that could jeopardize the scientific integrity of research into the origins and evolution of life. Planetary Protection research helps unlock NASA’s ability to understand microbial survival, growth in extraterrestrial environments, and impacts to astronaut health. In this workshop we will sequence and analyze microbes isolated from spacecraft hardware. Bioinformatics session will be led by NASA Ames Genelab. Student internships will also be discussed.

The program will include a day of lab work and demonstrations on Friday, March 10, and then two days of bioinformatic analysis of the resulting DNA sequence data, on Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1. Interested students should send a resume or CV to Dr. Rachel Mackelprang ( no later than Friday, February 17.

Image: Earth, viewed from orbit. (Flickr: NASA)