Dr. Eric Isaacs named 11th President of the Carnegie Institution for Science

By unanimous vote of the Carnegie Board of Trustees, Dr. Eric D. Isaacs has been appointed the 11th president of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Dr. Isaacs joins Carnegie from the University of Chicago and will succeed Interim Co-Presidents John Mulchaey and Yixian Zheng on July 2, 2018.

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New work from an international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Jaehan Bae used archival radio telescope data to develop a new method for finding very young extrasolar planets. Of the thousands of exoplanets discovered by astronomers, only a handful are in their formative years. Finding more baby planets will help astronomers answer the many outstanding questions about planet formation, including the process by which our own Solar System came into existence.

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NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered new “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks on Mars, increasing the chances that the record of habitability and potential life could have been preserved on the Red Planet, despite extremely harsh conditions on the surface that can easily break down organic molecules. Carnegie’s Andrew Steele was a key member of the research team, whose work on this project built off his discovery six years ago of indigenous organic carbon in 10 Martian meteorites. The organic molecules he found in 2012 are comparable to those found by Curiosity.

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A team of scientists led by Carnegie's Shaunna Morrison and including Bob Hazen have revealed the mineralogy of Mars at an unprecedented scale, which will help them understand the planet's geologic history and habitability. Understanding the mineralogy of another planet, such as Mars, allows scientists to backtrack and understand the forces that shaped their formation in that location.

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Carnegie scientist Greg Asner and his Reefscape Project play a crucial role in a new partnership that’s responding to the crisis facing the world’s coral reefs and the need for global maps and monitoring systems by harnessing satellite imagery and big data processing. Less than a quarter of the world’s reefs are sporadically mapped or monitored by visual assessment from SCUBA and light aircraft or, in a very few places, lower resolution satellite images.

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  • The fruit fly Drosophila is powerful for studying development and disease and there are many tools to genetically modify its cells. One tool, the Gal4/UAS system, has been a mainstay of Drosophila genetics for twenty-five years. But it only functions effectively in non-reproductive cells, not in egg-producing cells. It has not been known why. Carnegie’s Steven DeLuca and Allan Spradling discovered why and developed a new tool that can work in both cell types.

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The Carnegie-Spitzer-IMACS (CSI) survey, currently underway at the Magellan-Baade 6.5m telescope in Chile, has been specifically designed to characterize normal galaxies and their environments at a distance of about 4 billion years post Big Bang, expresses by astronomers as  z=1.5. The survey...
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Carbon plays an unparalleled role in our lives: as the element of life, as the basis of most of society’s energy, as the backbone of most new materials, and as the central focus in efforts to understand Earth’s variable and uncertain climate. Yet in spite of carbon’s importance, scientists remain...
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Together with Dr. Jamie Shuda, Steve Farber created a Science Outreach Program, Project BioEYES, that incorporates life science and laboratory education using zebrafish. The outreach program has two main components: educating teachers through hands-on training and tours of our zebrafish facility,...
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Peter Driscoll studies the evolution of Earth’s core and magnetic field including magnetic pole reversal. Over the last 20 million or so years, the north and south magnetic poles on Earth have reversed about every 200,000, to 300,000 years and is now long overdue. He also investigates the Earth’s...
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Zhiyong Wang was appointed acting director of Plant Biology in 2018. Steroids are important hormones in both animals and plants. They bulk up plants just as they do human athletes, but the pathway of molecular signals that tell the genes to boost growth and development is more complex in plant...
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Plants are essential to life on Earth and provide us with food, fuel, clothing, and shelter.  Despite all this, we know very little about how they do what they do. Even for the best-studied species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana --a wild mustard studied in the lab--we know about less than 20% of...
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June 22, 2018

Washington, DC— Carnegie’s Greg Asner advanced through a venture capital-style pitch group challenge to win a $250,000 grant from Battery Powered that will enable his flying laboratory team to map the coral of the Hawaiian Islands.

“Mapping the health of Hawaii’s coral communities has been a long-term dream of mine going back to the early days of my scientific career,” Asner said. “This funding will finally allow me to do so comprehensively.”

Battery Powered is the member-led giving program of a private San Francisco social club called The Battery. Three times a year, the members select a different theme and hear pitches from experts and organizations who work on the front

June 13, 2018

Washington, DC—New work from an international team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Jaehan Bae used archival radio telescope data to develop a new method for finding very young extrasolar planets. Their technique successfully confirmed the existence of two previously predicted Jupiter-mass planets around the star HD 163296. Their work is published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Of the thousands of exoplanets discovered by astronomers, only a handful are in their formative years. Finding more baby planets will help astronomers answer the many outstanding questions about planet formation, including the process by which our own Solar System came into existence.

Young

June 7, 2018

Washington, DC— NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered new “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks on Mars, increasing the chances that the record of habitability and potential life could have been preserved on the Red Planet, despite extremely harsh conditions on the surface that can easily break down organic molecules.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space and harsh chemicals that break down organic matter, so finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters, from a time when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper,” said

June 6, 2018

Washington, DC—A team of scientists led by Carnegie’s Shaunna Morrison and including Bob Hazen have revealed the mineralogy of Mars at an unprecedented scale, which will help them understand the planet’s geologic history and habitability. Their findings are published in two American Mineralogist papers.

Minerals form from novel combinations of elements. These combinations can be facilitated by geological activity, including volcanoes and water-rock interactions. Understanding the mineralogy of another planet, such as Mars, allows scientists to backtrack and understand the forces that shaped their formation in that location.

An instrument on NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover

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The WGESP was charged with acting as a focal point for research on extrasolar planets and organizing IAU activities in the field, including reviewing techniques and maintaining a list of identified planets. The WGESP developed a Working List of extrasolar planet candidates, subject to revision. In most cases, the orbital inclination of these objects is not yet determined, which is why most should still be considered candidate planets. The WGESP ended its six years of existence in August 2006, with the decision of the IAU to create a new commission dedicated to extrasolar planets as a part of Division III of the IAU. The founding president of Commission 53 is Michael Mayor, in honor of

The Carnegie Hubble program is an ongoing comprehensive effort that has a goal of determining the Hubble constant, the expansion rate of the universe,  to a systematic accuracy of 2%. As part of this program, astronomers are obtaining data at the 3.6 micron wavelength using the Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) on Spitzer Space Telescope. The team has demonstrated that the mid-infrared period-luminosity relation for Cepheids, variable stars used to determine distances and the rate of the expansion,  at 3.6 microns is the most accurate means of measuring Cepheid distances to date. At 3.6 microns, it is possible to minimize the known remaining systematic uncertainties in the Cepheid

The Giant Magellan Telescope will be one member of the next class of super giant earth-based telescopes that promises to revolutionize our view and understanding of the universe. It will be constructed in the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Commissioning of the telescope is scheduled to begin in 2021.

The GMT has a unique design that offers several advantages. It is a segmented mirror telescope that employs seven of today’s largest stiff monolith mirrors as segments. Six off-axis 8.4 meter or 27-foot segments surround a central on-axis segment, forming a single optical surface 24.5 meters, or 80 feet, in diameter with a total collecting area of 368 square meters. The GMT will

Approximately half of the gene sequences of human and mouse genomes comes from so-called mobile elements—genes that jump around the genome. Much of this DNA is no longer capable of moving, but is likely “auditioning”  perhaps as a regulator of gene function or in homologous recombination, which is a type of genetic recombination where the basic structural units of DNA,  nucleotide sequences, are exchanged between two DNA molecules to  repair  breaks in the DNA  strands. Modern mammalian genomes also contain numerous intact movable elements, such as retrotransposon LINE-1, that use RNA intermediates to spread about the genome. 

Given the crucial role of the precursor cells to egg

Globular clusters are spherical systems of some 100,000  gravitationally bound stars. They are among the oldest components of our galaxy and are key to understanding the age and scale of the universe. Previous measurements of their distances have compared the characteristics of different types of stars in the solar neighborhood with the same types of stars found in the clusters. However, these measurements have systematic errors, which limit the determination of cluster ages and distances.

 Ian Thompson has a different approach to the problem: using observations of exceedingly rare Detached Eclipsing Binary stars. These systems have two separated stars orbiting each other such

Understanding how plants grow can lead to improving crops.  Plant scientist Kathryn Barton, who joined Carnegie in 2001, investigates just that: what controls the plant’s body plan, from  the time it’s an embryo to its adult leaves. These processes include how plant parts form different orientations, from top to bottom, and different poles. She looks at regulation by small RNA’s, the function of small so-called Zipper proteins, and how hormone biosynthesis and response controls the plant’s growth.

Despite an enormous variety in leaf shape and arrangement, the basic body plan of plants is about the same: stems and leaves alternate in repeating units. The structure responsible for

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Greg Asner is a staff scientist in Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology and also serves as a Professor in the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University. He is an ecologist recognized for his exploratory and applied research on ecosystems, land use, and climate change at regional to global scales.

Asner graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1991. He earned master's and doctorate degrees in geography and biology, respectively, from the University of Colorado in 1997. He served as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University until he joined the

The first step in gene expression is the formation of an RNA copy of its DNA. This step, called transcription, takes place in the cell nucleus. Transcription requires an enzyme called RNA polymerase to catalyze the synthesis of the RNA from the DNA template. This, in addition to other processing factors, is needed before messenger RNA (mRNA) can be exported to the cytoplasm, the area surrounding the nucleus.

Although the biochemical details of transcription and RNA processing are known, relatively little is understood about their cellular organization. Joseph G. Gall has been an intellectual leader and has made seminal breakthroughs in our understanding of chromosomes, nuclei and