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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign awarded 5-year grant from NASA
Date:9/7/2012

re are traceable individual organismal lineages. "It is important to develop the field of universal biology, because we may never find traces of life on other planets. But if we understand that life is generic, maybe even an expected outcome of the laws of physics, then we'll know for sure that we are not alone," Goldenfeld says.

Co-investigators on the research team include Elbert Branscomb, Isaac Cann, Lee DeVille, Bruce Fouke, Rod Mackie, Gary Olsen, Zan Luthey-Schulten, Charles Werth, Rachel Whitaker, and Carl Woese from Illinois, Scott Dawson from the University of California, Davis, and Philip Hastings and Susan Rosenberg from Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston.

The research will be based in the university's Institute for Genomic Biology. "This bold research program fits perfectly at the IGB, which was established to help faculty compete for the large grants that are necessary to address grand challenges with a team-based multidisciplinary approach," says Gene Robinson, Director of the IGB. "The NASA award reflects the creativity and vision of the faculty in the Biocomplexity research theme, the IGB, and the campus as a whole."

In addition to the research, novel educational activities related to the field of astrobiology will take place. These will include not only formal education in astrobiology at the undergraduate level, but also a massively online open course as part of the university's initiative in this arena. Other public outreach will include a partnership with a science program at the middle school science level, the development of short web-based videos on astrobiology concepts and findings called "AstroFlix", and a new astrobiology course for lifelong learners in the community.

Goldenfeld concludes "We want to help answer not only the basic questions of 'How does life begin and evolve?' and 'Is there life beyond Earth?' but also 'Why does life exist at all?' The NASA Astrobiology Institute is the most
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Contact: Nicholas Vasi
nvasi@illinois.edu
217-333-0873
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign awarded  5-year grant from NASA
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