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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Revolutionary progress in understanding plant biology is being driven through advances in DNA sequencing technology. Carnegie plant scientists have played a key role in the sequencing and genome annotation efforts of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the soil alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii....
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Monitoring tropical deforestation and forest degradation with satellites can be an everyday activity for non-experts who support environmental conservation, forest management, and resource policy development. Through extensive observation of user needs, the Greg Asner team developed CLASlite ( the...
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Carnegie is renowned for its post-doctoral and graduate student fellowship programs, which operate on each of the Carnegie campuses. Our fellows participate fully in the institution’s vigorous intellectual life, and have complete access to the laboratory instruments and facilities at the...
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Seminars / Conferences
Chlamydomonas image, Louisa Howard, Dartmouth College
Sunday, June 17, 2018 - 4:00pm to Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 12:15pm

18th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE CELL AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF CHLAMYDOMONAS

About the conference:

The meeting will have an international...

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Staff member emeritus François Schweizer studies galaxy assembly and evolution by observing nearby galaxies, particularly how collisions and mergers affect their properties. His research has added to the awareness that these events are dominant processes in shaping galaxies and determining their...
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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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Joe Berry has been a Carnegie investigator since 1972. He has developed powerful tools to measure local and regional exchanges of carbon over spaces of up to thousands of square miles. He uses information at the plant scale to extrapolate the carbon balance at regional and continental scales....
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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

June 4, 2018

Washington, DC—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.

The partnership will provide the first-ever seamless mosaic of high resolution satellite imagery of the world’s coral reefs and will engage with the global coral reef science and management communities to deliver

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CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Following Andrew Carnegie’s founding encouragement of liberal discovery-driven research, the Carnegie Institution for Science offers its scientists a new resource for pursuing bold ideas.

Carnegie Science Venture grants are internal awards of up to $100,000 that are intended to foster entirely new directions of research by teams of scientists that ignore departmental boundaries. Up to six adventurous investigations may be funded each year. The period of the award is two years,

The fund supports a postdoctoral fellowship in astronomy that rotates between the Carnegie Science departments of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C., and the Observatories in Pasadena California. 

Carnegie's Paul Butler has been leading work on a multiyear project to carry out the first reconnaissance of all 2,000 nearby Sun-like stars within 150 light-years of the solar system (1 lightyear is about 9.4 trillion kilometers). His team is currently monitoring about 1,700 stars, including 1,000 Northern Hemisphere stars with the Keck telescope in Hawaii and the UCO Lick Observatory telescope in California, and 300 Southern Hemisphere stars with the Anglo-Australian telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The remaining Southern Hemisphere stars are being surveyed with Carnegie's new Magellan telescopes in Chile. By 2010 the researchers hope to have completed their planetary census.

Along with Alycia Weinberger and Ian Thompson, Alan Boss has been running the Carnegie Astrometric Planet Search (CAPS) program, which searches for extrasolar planets by the astrometric method, where the planet's presence is detected indirectly through the wobble of the host star around the center of mass of the system. With over eight years of CAPSCam data, they are beginning to see likely true astrometric wobbles beginning to appear. The CAPSCam planet search effort is on the verge of yielding a harvest of astrometrically discovered planets, as well as accurate parallactic distances to many young stars and M dwarfs. For more see  http://instrumentation.obs.carnegiescience.edu/ccd/caps.

With the proliferation of discoveries of planets orbiting other stars, the race is on to find habitable worlds akin to the Earth. At present, however, extrasolar planets less massive than Saturn cannot be reliably detected. Astrophysicist John Chambers models the dynamics of these newly found giant planetary systems to understand their formation history and to determine the best way to predict the existence and frequency of smaller Earth-like worlds.

As part of this research, Chambers explores the basic physical, chemical, and dynamical aspects that led to the formation of our own Solar System--an event that is still poorly understood. His ultimate goal is to determine if similar

Alycia Weinberger wants to understand how planets form, so she observes young stars in our galaxy and their disks, from which planets are born. She also looks for and studies planetary systems.

Studying disks surrounding nearby stars help us determine the necessary conditions for planet formation. Young disks contain the raw materials for building planets and the ultimate architecture of planetary systems depends on how these raw materials are distributed, what the balance of different elements and ices is within the gas and dust, and how fast the disks dissipate.

Weinberger uses a variety of observational techniques and facilities, particularly ultra-high spatial-

Integrity of hereditary material—the genome —is critical for species survival. Genomes need protection from agents that can cause mutations affecting DNA coding, regulatory functions, and duplication during cell division. DNA sequences called transposons, or jumping genes (discovered by Carnegie’s Barbara McClintock,) can multiply and randomly jump around the genome and cause mutations. About half of the sequence of the human and mouse genomes is derived from these mobile elements.  RNA interference (RNAi, codiscovered by Carnegie’s Andy Fire) and related processes are central to transposon control, particularly in egg and sperm precursor cells.  

The Bortvin lab, with colleagues

Stephen Shectman blends his celestial interests with his gift of developing novel telescope instrumentation. He investigates the large-scale structure of the galaxy distribution; searches for ancient stars that have few elements; develops astronomical instruments; and constructs large telescopes. Shectman was the former project scientist for Magellan and is largely responsible for the superb quality of 6.5-meter telescopes. He is now a member of the Giant Magellan Telescope Project Scientists’ Working Group.

 To understand large-scale structure, Shectman has participated in several galaxy surveys. He and collaborators discovered a particularly large void in the galaxy distribution