Venture Grants

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 $150,000 that are intended to foster entirely new directions of research by teams of scientists that ignore departmental boundaries. Up to three adventurous investigations may be funded each year. The period of the award is two years, with a starting date within three months of the announcement of the selected projects.

Awards will be distributed once yearly following the proposal and review process.

Key dates for upcoming cycle:

April 30

2021 Proposals due

June 30 Announcement of Awards

Please submit your proposals to

Proposals will be confidential and will be seen only by the review panel and Headquarters staff. Unless the scientists state a preference otherwise on their cover page, these proposals will be shared with the Development department after the review panel, for potential efforts to raise funds for the projects.

Explore the Funded Projects


Detecting Molecules of Exoplanet Life

Nick Konidaris of the Observatories, Johanna Teske of the Earth and Planets Laboratory, and Jason Williams, a USC graduate student, will undertake a project to develop an instrument for detecting life-indicating molecules in exoplanet atmospheres. The team will develop a prototype, dubbed the Henrietta, to develop a new technique aimed at the challenge of measuring the small signals of exoplanet atmospheres from the ground. One challenge for detecting and analyzing light from an exoplanet is that Earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of it. In order to remove the effect of absorption, the team will work with a tool called a holographic diffuser, which spreads the star’s very bright signal over 100s of pixels—instead of the typical handful—to improve the measurement’s precision, as well as the range of stars available for study.

This diffuser technique has never been demonstrated with a spectrograph in the lab or on the sky. The team will build a spectrograph and atmospheric simulator in the lab and then install it on the Swope telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, to conduct a small survey of exoplanet atmospheres. The lessons learned will be used by applied to the Magellan Infrared Multi-Object Spectrograph (MIRMOS), currently under design for the Magellan telescopes, and then the Giant Magellan Telescope when it is completed later this decade, to study thousands of exo-atmospheres.

Determining Genetics for Coral Adaptation to Heat and Bleaching  

Moises Exposito-Alonso of Plant Biology and Phillip A. Cleves of Embryology propose using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to conduct a genome-wide association study that will identify and test the genes that may control heat and bleaching tolerance in coral. The team will take a multidisciplinary approach to find the locations on chromosomes—loci—that control heat tolerance and bleaching susceptibility in wild coral. In a preliminary analysis by graduate student Veronica Pagowski, they have found several genomic regions in two different species that are associated with historical warming events.

The team will use existing datasets to conduct a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify candidate loci that may control heat and bleaching tolerance. They will then use CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing in corals to engineer replacement methods for specific alleles—alternative versions of the same gene—to functionally test these loci in heat stress and bleaching conditions. Their strategy combines the unique expertise from the two departments to develop a new field of evolutionary functional genomics in corals. This work could generate critical multi-scale insights into corals and their ecosystems. Using genetics to identify resistant corals will be powerful in efforts to help rebuild degraded reefs.


Carbon-rich Super-Earths: Constraining Internal Structure from Dynamic Compression Experiments

The Peter Driscoll/Sally June Tracy project is an interdisciplinary opportunity for an early career materials physicist, Tracy, to work with an early career geodynamicist, Driscoll, and for a postdoc to gain expertise in both fields using novel high-pressure techniques that inform new models.

The explosion of extrasolar planet discoveries has raised new questions about the formation, evolution and the habitability of planets. The mantles of carbon-rich super-Earths, exoplanets up to about 10 Earth-masses, are thought to be rich in silicon carbide (SiC), while the cores are believed to be rich in iron/iron-carbide.  However, there are obstacles in modeling the internal structure and thermal evolution of such planets because of poor constraints on material properties at the extreme pressure-temperature conditions of planetary interiors. The duo, with a postdoc, seeks to overcome this problem with new high-pressure experiments that will inform new models. Peter Driscoll and Sally June Tracy are shown in the lab.


Thermo-adaptation of Photosynthesis in Extremophilic Desert Plants

The Sue Rhee/Joe Berry/Jen Johnson project brings together ecophysiology, genomics, systems biology, biochemistry, and modeling to provide new insights into the high temperature limits of photosynthesis, which is particularly critical as we face a changing climate.

Photosynthesis is exquisitely sensitive to temperature. Across the range from 10° to 50°C (50°F to 122°F), all higher plants exhibit a distinctive thermal optimum for photosynthesis. As the warming of the climate intensifies, photosynthesis will be pushed toward the inhibitory part of the temperature response. However, it is a mystery what chain of molecular events causes the high temperature inhibition. In this project, the team aims to understand the molecular basis of photosynthetic performance at high temperatures using comparative studies of Tidestromia oblongifolia, a heat-tolerant plant native to the Mojave Desert, and Amaranthus hypochondriacus, a closely related but heat-sensitive cereal crop native to cooler climates. Team members Karine Prado, a postdoc in Plant Biology and Global Ecology is shown left, while Jen Johnson, research associate in Global Ecology is in the middle image, and Sue Rhee’s mother, Soon Sup Rhee near the Salton Sea is at right.


Deciphering Life Functions in Extreme Environments

The Geophysical Laboratory’s Dionysis Foustoukos and Sue Rhee of the Department of Plant Biology, with colleague Costantino Vetriani of Rutgers have teamed up to integrate microbial physiology, genomics, and metabolic network modeling with high pressure and temperature experimentation to understand gene regulation in response to changing environmental conditions. Their objective is to unravel how microorganisms interact with each other and the environment. They will use a high-pressure adapted (piezophilic) chemolithoautotrophic bacterium that Foustoukos and Vetriani recently isolated from an active deep-sea vent at the East Pacific Rise. This is the only autotrophic organism that has been characterized among the piezophilic organisms isolated to date.

The scientists will look at the adaptation mechanisms of the microorganisms’ metabolism in response to different pressures up to 680 times atmospheric pressure and temperatures up to 175º F (80 º C) in different nutrients using a novel bioreactor used by Foustoukos and Vetriani. Experimental results will be compared to genomic studies and genome databases from the Rhee lab to reconstruct the metabolic network models of piezophilic microorganisms. The team hopes to better understand how environmental factors and physiology of these organisms shape the evolution of the deep biosphere.


Detecting Signs of Life

Astronomer Andrew McWilliam of the Observatories has teamed up with Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow Johanna Teske of Terrestrial Magnetism to detect molecules important to the emergence of life on Earth-sized exoplanets. A priority target is TRAPPIST-1 system, with seven Earth-sized planets. They will analyze light transmitted through these exoplanet atmospheres as the planets move in front of their host stars, searching for the faint molecular fingerprints of species like water, carbon dioxide, and methane. The researchers will work with the world-class instrumentation team at Observatories to adapt a new, high-resolution near-infrared spectrograph, from the University of Tokyo, to be deployed on the Magellan-Clay telescope, and develop custom reduction and analysis tools for exo-atmospheric detection. 

A priority target for detecting molecules essential to life is the TRAPPIST-1 system (left, artist’s concept). It has seven Earth-sized planets, and three of them are in the habitable zone, where temperatures permit liquid water to occur on the surface. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt, T. Pyle (IPAC)



Measuring Photosynthesis At Large Scales

A second grant was awarded to a collaboration among instrument designer Nick Konidaris of the Observatories and global ecologists Greg Asner, Joe Berry and Ari Kornfeld, to disentangle the faint light emitted by chlorophyll during photosynthesis from the much brighter sunlight reflected off the plant surface. This remote sensing technique, called Solar Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence (SIF), can be used in ​applications​ ​from​ ​precision​ ​farming,​ ​to​ ​forestry,​ ​to​ ​ understanding and​ ​predicting​ ​global​ ​climate​ ​change.​ These methods can also be used to study low-surface-brightness features in nearby galaxies thereby advancing both ecological and astronomical studies. As a first step in advancing these two fields, a SIF instrument will be incorporated into the Carnegie Airborne Observatory to allow measurements of photosynthesis to be coupled with structural characteristics in unprecedented detail.

The image at left shows chlorophyll fluorescence from photosynthesis at the molecular level. The Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) can render height maps of forests, as in the image at right. Red in this image indicates the tallest plants. The team will use the remote sensing technique called Solar Induced Chlorophyll Fluorescence (SIF) to measure photosynthesis, coupled with structural characteristics from the CAO in unprecedented detail at large scales.


A "Gene Gun" for Genetic Manipulation

A third Venture Grant was awarded to a project planned by plant biologists Zhiyong Wang and global ecologists Joe Berry and Jennifer Johnson, with Karlheinz Merkle of Stanford University to develop a new “gene gun” that can deliver biomolecules deep into plant cells that then participate in reproduction for the purpose of genetic manipulation. The new tool would be much quicker and more effective than current methods and could break a time-consuming bottleneck in plant research and biotechnology.

The researchers will use the maize plant, shown at left under greenhouse lighting, to inject biomolecules deep into plant cells with their new “gene gun” for genetic manipulation.



Materials Science Applied to Biological Protein Folding 

A fourth grant will go to a team that includes materials physicists at the Geophysical Laboratory Tim Strobel, Ron Cohen and Li Zhu, in collaboration with Plant Biology’s Proteomics Facility Director Shouling Xu. The team will apply their new computational method designed to understand materials synthesis to the biological problem of understanding the mechanisms of protein folding, which is vital to life. Misfolded proteins are believed to lead to many diseases. The team hopes to help bridge the gap between known protein sequences and protein structures.


This image is an example of a modeled biological protein fold using techniques from materials science. Like an activated phase transition—such as graphite to diamond—in any solid-state material, proteins fold by changing configuration with associated energy penalties and benefits.


Astrophysical Data Extraction
For decades, astronomers have taken 2­-dimensional images through filters to try to understand the processes inside galaxies such as the ages of stars and whether they host black holes. But the image information is limited. To determine more detailed information on galaxies, such as their motions, finer frequency information is needed.
Juna Kollmeier and Guillermo Blanc of the Observatories will use new mathematical techniques to interrogate data from Integral Field Unit Spectrometers (IFU). These instruments take spectra at multiple locations within a target such as a distant galaxy. The “data cubes” from these instruments are extraordinarily rich and complex and the team will be applying algorithms developed in mathematics and computer science to extract features and remove noise from these astrophysical data.
The researchers learned of the method during a visit to the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute (SCI) at the University of Utah, where Bei Wang Phillips and collaborator Paul Rosen have been working to analyze similar data cubes taken at radio frequencies with the ALMA telescope in Chile. These techniques are only accessible to the Carnegie researchers via collaboration with SCI. They hope this is the beginning of an exciting joint venture with SCI on theoretical and observational data analysis. The funds will support a student to work closely with the team to apply the new mathematical techniques to optical spectroscopic data.
Below: The images show a 2-dimensional observation ([a], left image), which could be rendered as a 2-D projection of a 3-D structure with much finer resolution using the new mathematical technique ([b], right image).
New Experiments to Model Mars’s Thermal Evolution
The rate at which a planet loses heat determines its internal structure and its geologic activity. Compared to Earth, the geologic activity on the Moon and Mars stopped long ago as did Mars’ magnetic field, probably from an abrupt decrease of heat flow. To understand what happened to Mars requires information on its interior structure and the mechanism and rate of the cooling. Thus far, such information is insufficient.
Modeling planetary dynamics requires the knowledge of surface heat flux, which is highly uncertain at high pressure and temperature conditions of the mantle and core. Alex Goncharov of the Geophysical Laboratory and Peter van Keken of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism will use their Carnegie Science Venture grant to measure olivine, the dominant Martian mantle mineral at high pressure and temperature using a novel technique. They will use the results to develop thermal evolution models for Mars.
The new technique is a flash-heating method. A sample is compressed in a diamond anvil cell then continuously heated from both sides by an infrared laser to a stable temperature. Then, a second infrared laser delivers a pulse to one side of the sample generating a thermal disturbance. This innovation will enable the most accurate experimental measurements of thermal conductivity to date.
They will then create 3-D thermal evolution models of the Moon and Mars. NASA will launch the InSight mission to Mars in May, 2018, providing the first seismic and surface heat flux data. The subsequent Carnegie model will incorporate InSight seismic results and surface heat flow measurements. This award will support a new GL-DTM postdoc and contribute to regular diamond replacements and to the team’s travel budget.
Below: The schematic below shows the flash-heating diamond anvil cell method. 


Direct Shock Compression of Pre-synthesized Mantle Mineral to Super-Earth Interior Conditions

Yingwei Fei, a high-pressure experimentalist at the Geophysical Laboratory, and Peter Driscoll, theoretical geophysicist in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, have been awarded a Carnegie Science Venture Grant for their project “Direct Shock Compression of Pre-synthesized Mantle Mineral to Super-Earth Interior Conditions.”The project is an entirely new approach to investigate the properties and dynamics of super-Earths—extrasolar planets with masses between one and 10 times that of Earth. They will use the world’s most powerful magnetic, pulsed-power radiation source, called the Z Machine at Sandia National Laboratory, to generate shock waves that can simulate the intense pressure conditions of these enormous bodies. Reaching such high pressures has not been possible before with conventional techniques. The results will be used to develop models and predictions of super-Earth interiors.  Below, Fei and Driscoll are in the lab. The Z Machine is at right. Z Machine Image courtesy Sandia Lab



Coral calcification and the future of reefsArt Grossman of Plant Biology is teaming up with Global Ecology’s Rebecca Albright, Ken Caldeira and others to develop a new model for understanding how coral calcification works at the cellular/molecular and community levels. This blends fieldwork with understanding the molecular mechanisms that coral use to remove calcium and inorganic carbon from the seawater for calcification.  The objective is to create a model to understand how the system is affected by climate change in the face of the growing global coral reef demise. The team will collaborate with the California Academy of Sciences to build a laboratory-based coral model system and focus on the critical larval and metamorphosis period to look at the DNA, RNA and proteins involved when cells begin to calcify. There is also the potential for a biomedical spin-off including the generation of bone material for grafting.  

Far left image below: Healthy coral reefs like this example in the Great Barrier Reef are under severe attack worldwide. The Grossman,/Albright/Caldeira  team will develop a new model for understanding how coral calcification works at the cellular/molecular and community level to understand how the system is affected by climate change. Image courtesy David Kline

How do plants sense temperature and time their flowering?—This team will investigate the molecular mechanisms that control how plants sense temperature changes. Temperature changes affect carbon fixation, development, the timing of flowering, and more. The timing of flowering is particularly important with global temperature rise. Embryology’s Yixian Zheng’s lab recently looked at how a protein whose transition into a liquid state at physiological temperature promoted a cell division process. That protein, BuGZ, belongs to a protein class called intrinsically disordered proteins and is similar to a protein called SUF4 involved in regulating flowering in plants. She is teaming up with David Ehrhardt’s lab in Plant Biology lab to determine if a similar temperature-dependent “phase transition” of SUF4 is required to regulate the flowering process. The Zheng and Ehrhardt labs will tag the protein to observe SUF4 behavior. It is uses temperature-dependent phase transition to regulate the flowering process, it would establish a new paradigm for temperature sensing in biological systems.

Middle two images below: Embryology’s Yixian Zheng’s lab recently looked at how a protein, whose temperature-dependent transition into a liquid droplet state promoted a cell division process. That protein, BuGZ is shown in droplet form (second from left). She is teaming up with Dave Ehrhardt at Plant Biology to see if this transition to a liquid droplet state in a similar protein, SUF4, is involved in the flowering process in the model plant Arabidopsis ( third image from left) .

C-MOOR: The Carnegie Massive Open Online Research Platform—This grant will establish C-MOOR (pronounced “See More!”), an internet resource that allows select Carnegie data sets to be easily accessed and analyzed by citizen scientists. Frederick Tan and Zehra Nizami of Embryology are teaming up with Terrestrial Magnetism’s Alan Boss, Sergio Dieterich and Johanna Teske (also with the Observatories) to combine Carnegie’s experience in cell, molecular, and computational biology expertise with astronomical and astrophysical observations and programming experience. Other like-minded Carnegie researchers are invited to help establish a community website with tutorials, discussion forums, an “Ask a Scientist” query portal, and other engaging features. This platform targets users seeking course credit, scouting, or merit badges as well as those driven by sheer curiosity. 

Top right image below: Most astronomical objects are known only as coordinate and brightness entries in astronomical catalogs. These catalogs have hundreds of millions of entries and the vast majority of them remain unstudied or even unnoticed by scientists. By partnering with citizen scientists to sift through these data we hope to learn more about stars both as individual objects and as a population. This image exemplifies the fact that for every star we study closely, in this case Luhman 16 at the center of the image (number 42), there are countless others that remain as mere numbers in a catalog. Could astronomical secrets be hiding in plain sight in images such as this one? C-MOOR will address this and other questions with the help of citizen scientists.

Bottom right image below: Many of the modifications that occur in our genome are biased towards specific subsets of the 3 billion basepairs that form the fundamental building block of DNA. In this image, red regions represent changes in one type of modification, DNA methylation, that may alter the activity of nearby genes and transposable elements—segments of DNA that jump around—during mouse sperm development.  Carnegie scientists are interested in understanding what predisposes particular regions of the genome to these and other changes. This vast array of information and more can be sifted through by the citizen scientists participating in C-MOOR. Image courtesy of Valeriya Gaysinskaya and Alex Bortvin.



SWEET Transporters in Zebrafish
Steven Farber (Dept. of Embryology), Wolf Frommer (Dept. of Plant Biology)
Sugar homeostasis is critical for health – both under- and oversupply cause cellular and organismal damage. The Farber Lab from Carnegie’s Embryology and the Frommer lab from Carnegie’s Plant Biology have joined forces to better understand the regulation of sugar transport in the vertebrate intestine.  A novel sugar transporter discovered in plants (SLC50A; SWEET1) influences plant sugar transport, including plant vein loading, seed filling, gametophyte nutrition and nectar secretion.  Interestingly, SWEET1 is also present in vertebrates and has been shown to transport glucose although we know very little about its specific roles in digestive organs like the intestine.  Here we intend to establish the basis for understanding the role of SWEETs in humans by exploring the role and function of the single zebrafish version of SWEET1. Why are we performing this study in zebrafish?  Because the larval zebrafish is optically clear, so we can deploy fluorescent biosensors, developed in the Frommer lab, that measure sugar levels by changing their fluorescent properties.  The Farber lab has perfected ways of imaging the transport of another key nutrient (lipids) in single zebrafish intestinal cells so with these Frommer lab sensors they can more easily apply these same methods to the study of sugar transport. Currently, it is not possible to study subcellular nutrient transport inside a live digestive organ in a mammal like a mouse or human. We will use state-of-the-art genomic editing to create zebrafish with broken SWEET1 transporters (mutants) and study their phenotype and physiology with the help of theses glucose biosensors. It is our belief that the data from our studies will be relevant in the context of human nutrition, as well as diseases states such as Diabetes.

Carbon Isotope Ratio of Earth's Mantle
Erik Hauri (Dept. of Terrestrial Magnetism), Anat Shahar (Geophysical Laboratory), Stephen Elardo (Geophysical Laboratory)
Traditionally, carbon isotopes have been used to trace the movement and cycling of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans, and shallow subsurface environments. As high temperatures cause a decrease in equilibrium stable isotope fractionation, it was assumed for decades that carbon isotope fractionation in deep Earth conditions would be negligible. However, this may not be true.The silicate Earth has a carbon isotope signature that is quite different from those of meteorites, and other planetary and asteroidal bodies. However, it is thought that Earth, Mars, and the asteroids all received their volatiles, including carbon, from a similar source. So why is Earth’s carbon isotope ratio so different? Is it plausible that core formation, the single largest physical and chemical event in Earth’s history, could change the carbon isotopic signature of the entire planet? And if so, what would that mean for the composition of the core?We will try to understand this paradox by testing whether the differentiation of Earth’s core from mantle could have been accompanied by a significant shift in the carbon isotopic signature of the mantle by: 1. Determining the carbon isotopic fractionation factor between metal and silicate at high pressure and temperature for the first time, and 2. Placing an independent constraint on the amount of carbon in the Earth’s core.

Mapping Coral Bleaching
Greg Asner, Ken Caldeira, Rebecca Albright, Robin Martin (Dept. of Global Ecology)
Despite covering less than 0.1% of the world’s oceans, coral reefs harbor one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and are valued at ~$30 billion per year. Coral bleaching, a phenomenon whereby warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures stress corals causing them to expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, is one of the largest and most pervasive threats to coral reefs. In October, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) declared the third ever global bleaching event; the epicenter of this event is Hawaii, which is currently experiencing record-breaking bleaching due to ocean warming associated with El Niño conditions. To document the extent of this bleaching event, the Asner and Caldeira labs are joining forces in an exciting new project to apply cutting edge remote sensing techniques to the marine environment. Asner is an expert in ecological remote sensing and has been conducting research in Hawaii for over 20 years. Caldeira is a climate scientist who has been researching the impacts of climate change on coral reefs for nearly two decades. This partnership represents an exciting new direction that promises to unfold relationships between ocean warming and coral stress, providing scientifically robust information to inform decision-makers and guide conservation-management. 



Please address the following questions in your proposal (2 pages maximum after the cover page, 1-inch margins, at least 11-point font):

  • What question does this work aim to address, and why is it important?
  • Why are this team and this approach well suited to investigate this question? How does the project differ from prior work, on this topic and by the participating scientists?
  • What is the potential for discovery or technological innovation with the work proposed?
  • What does the team expect to be the greatest challenges? How will the team measure success?
  • What critical resources would this award enable? Describe the budget.

Review process:

The review panel will consist of a representative from each department.


Award recipients will report on their progress at the halfway mark, i.e., after one year, and at the conclusion of the project period. The lifetime of the award begins at the first expenditure. No-cost extensions are possible if approval is sought more than six months before the end of the project period.


Proposals should be led by at least one Carnegie staff scientist. Teams that include staff from more than one department are encouraged but not required. Collaborations with scientists from outside the Carnegie Institution for Science are fully eligible for these awards. However, the awarded funds may not provide direct support to other institutes (e.g., funds may not support a faculty salary at another institution or the purchase of an instrument that will not ultimately reside at Carnegie; a joint studentship or postdoc is an example of an expense that could be supported).


In reviewing proposals, the panel will consider the following potential strengths and weaknesses. These lists also reflect the discussions of the inaugural panel and their subsequent rankings. Representative comments similar to those made by the panel are given in italics.

What qualities strengthen a proposal?:

High scientific quality


Demonstration that the problem to be pursued is an important one

    (“I knew nothing about this field before this, but this proposal inspired me to read up on it, and I’m now convinced this is a key issue”)

Cooperative interdisciplinary approaches

     (“Wouldn’t have thought of pairing these scientists up, but for this project it makes perfect sense”)

Innovative techniques or instrumentation

     (“No one has done anything like this before and it’s within our reach”)

Making a clear distinction between the proposed work and past work

     (“This person is in my department, and while it aims at a question they work on now, this is a totally different approach”)

Potential for discovery and/or technical advances

     (“If this worked, it would revolutionize the field”)

Teams that include an unusual combination of skills, whether bridging labs or departments

     (“The two labs involved are indeed in the same department, but their work is night and day”)

     (“This is a great synergy between departments X and Y; can we make more of these connections in the institution?”)

Realistic scale of project for the funds available

What qualities weaken a proposal?:

Direct extensions of prior work

     (“Proposer is excellent at this work, and this seems like more of the same”)

Teams that reflect already existing collaborations

     (“This standard team will likely do this whether they receive this funding or not”)

Unclear goals OR unclear paths to discovery

     (“So many free parameters that it’s not clear how degeneracy will be broken”)

Lack of exciting concept

     (“This is work worth doing, but it’s not appropriate for this call”)

Too large a project scale for the funding requested

     (“It’s hard to imagine even starting to make headway on this in less than two years”)

High dependency on people outside Carnegie

     (“It seems like most of the work will be done at a remote site and will only be directed from afar by the Carnegie staff scientists”)

Explore Carnegie Science

Lava deposits in Leilani Estates (Credit: B. Shiro, USGS)
April 7, 2021

Washington, DC— The 2018 eruption of Kīlauea Volcano in Hawai‘i provided scientists with an unprecedented opportunity to identify new factors that could help forecast the hazard potential of future eruptions.

The properties of the magma inside a volcano affect how an eruption will play out. In particular, the viscosity of this molten rock is a major factor in influencing how hazardous an eruption could be for nearby communities.

Very viscous magmas are linked with more powerful explosions because they can block gas from escaping through vents, allowing pressure to build up inside the volcano’s plumbing system. On the other hand, extrusion of more viscous

CLIPPIR diamonds by Robert Weldon, copyright GIA, courtesy Gem Diamonds Ltd.
March 31, 2021

Washington, DC— Diamonds that formed deep in the Earth’s mantle contain evidence of chemical reactions that occurred on the seafloor. Probing these gems can help geoscientists understand how material is exchanged between the planet’s surface and its depths.  

New work published in Science Advances confirms that serpentinite—a rock that forms from peridotite, the main rock type in Earth’s mantle, when water penetrates cracks in the ocean floor—can carry surface water as far as 700 kilometers deep by plate tectonic processes.

“Nearly all tectonic plates that make up the seafloor eventually bend and slide down into the mantle

Mars mosaic courtesy of NASA
March 17, 2021

Washington, DC— Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei is the namesake of an iron-titanuim oxide mineral discovered in a meteorite that originated on Mars. Caltech’s Chi Ma announced the find this week at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

Called Feiite, with a composition of Fe3TiO5, the mineral formed during a violent impact on the Red Planet that sent the rock hurtling into space. During the event its molecular architecture was rearranged by a shock wave resulting in extreme pressure, which formed a new crystalline structure. A chunk was ejected and eventually crashed to Earth, where it was studied by Ma using electron-beam and synchrotron techniques.

The name

The Moon. Credit: Lick Observatory/ESA/Hubble
February 25, 2021

Washington, DC — Volcanic rock samples collected during NASA’s Apollo missions bear the isotopic signature of key events in the early evolution of the Moon, a new analysis found. Those events include the formation of the Moon’s iron core, as well as the crystallization of the lunar magma ocean—the sea of molten rock thought to have covered the Moon for around 100 million years after the it formed. 

The analysis, published in the journal Science Advances, used a technique called secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) to study volcanic glasses returned from the Apollo 15 and 17 missions, which are thought to represent some of the most primitive volcanic

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Established in June of 2016 with a generous gift of $50,000 from Marilyn Fogel and Christopher Swarth, the Marilyn Fogel Endowed Fund for Internships will provide support for “very young budding scientists” who wish to “spend a summer getting their feet wet in research for the very first time.”  The income from this endowed fund will enable high school students and undergraduates to conduct mentored internships at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory and Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, DC starting in the summer of 2017.

Marilyn Fogel’s thirty-three year career at Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory (1977-2013), followed

Andrew Steele joins the Rosetta team as a co-investigator working on the COSAC instrument aboard the Philae lander (Fred Goesmann Max Planck Institute - PI). On 12 November 2014 the Philae system will be deployed to land on the comet and begin operations. Before this, several analyses of the comet environment are scheduled from an approximate orbit of 10 km from the comet. The COSAC instrument is a Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer that will measure the abundance of volatile gases and organic carbon compounds in the coma and solid samples of the comet.

The Anglo-Australian Planet Search (AAPS) is a long-term program being carried out on the 3.9-meter Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) to search for giant planets around more than 240 nearby Sun-like stars. The team, including Carnegie scientists,  uses the "Doppler wobble" technique to search for these otherwise invisible extra-solar planets, and achieve the highest long-term precision demonstrated by any Southern Hemisphere planet search.

Carnegie scientists participate in NASA's Kepler missions, the first mission capable of finding Earth-size planets around other stars. The centuries-old quest for other worlds like our Earth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitement and popular interest surrounding the discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other stars. There is now clear evidence for substantial numbers of three types of exoplanets; gas giants, hot-super-Earths in short period orbits, and ice giants.

The challenge now is to find terrestrial planets (those one half to twice the size of the Earth), especially those in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water and possibly life might exist.

Johanna Teske became the first new staff member to join Carnegie’s newly named Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL) in Washington, D.C., on September 1, 2020. She has been a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, CA, since 2018. From 2014 to 2017 she was the Carnegie Origins Postdoctoral Fellow—a joint position between Carnegie’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (now part of EPL) and the Carnegie Observatories.

Teske is interested in the diversity in exoplanet compositions and the origins of that diversity. She uses observations to estimate exoplanet interior and atmospheric compositions, and the chemical environments of their formation

Phillip Cleves’ Ph.D. research was on determining the genetic changes that drive morphological evolution. He used the emerging model organism, the stickleback fish, to map genetic changes that control skeletal evolution. Using new genetic mapping and reverse genetic tools developed during his Ph.D., Cleves identified regulatory changes in a protein called bone morphogenetic protein 6 that were responsible for an evolved increase in tooth number in stickleback. This work illustrated how molecular changes can generate morphological novelty in vertebrates.

Cleves returned to his passion for coral research in his postdoctoral work in John Pringles’ lab at Stanford

Brittany Belin joined the Department of Embryology staff in August 2020. Her Ph.D. research involved developing new tools for in vivo imaging of actin in cell nuclei. Actin is a major structural element in eukaryotic cells—cells with a nucleus and organelles —forming contractile polymers that drive muscle contraction, the migration of immune cells to  infection sites, and the movement of signals from one part of a cell to another. Using the tools developed in her Ph.D., Belin discovered a new role for actin in aiding the repair of DNA breaks in human cells caused by carcinogens, UV light, and other mutagens.

Belin changed course for her postdoctoral work, in

Evolutionary geneticist Moises Exposito-Alonso joined the Department of Plant Biology as a staff associate in September 2019. He investigates whether and how plants will evolve to keep pace with climate change by conducting large-scale ecological and genome sequencing experiments. He also develops computational methods to derive fundamental principles of evolution, such as how fast natural populations acquire new mutations and how past climates shaped continental-scale biodiversity patterns. His goal is to use these first principles and computational approaches to forecast evolutionary outcomes of populations under climate change to anticipate potential future