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Reflections on AstrobiologyOU's Research Celebration Day

Karen Olsson-Francis standing at the podium introducing the day

Celebrations, success and joy all around! AstrobiologyOU’s Research Celebration Day was a great success! The group came together to present, share and join in with this delightful time. Gently, the sun’s soft rays enveloped the campus while the cool wind delicately blew between the buildings and the walkway – a beautiful combination giving a mellow warmth. The day begun with arrival and registration in a room just by the Hub Theatre – pretty pastries and comforting coffees were served in a wide variety of flavours from cinnamon to custard. Here, PhD students, post-Doctoral researchers and special guests mingled over the tasty treats served. This was followed by a jovial introduction by Karen, Susanne and Hannah which kicked off the first set of presentations.

A series of excellent presentations all followed, one after the other. The first presentation – about simulating Martian environments – engrossed the audience, while a captivating poem about life in sulphate-rich environments then followed. Anushree Srivastava reciting her poemThe audience was then delighted by some of the alternative presentation formats, including one which used dance to present the geology of their research and a catchy hit by Mario about sulphate rich lakes and Mars! Deep questions and resulted in fruitful conversations following the presentations, after which the breaks were pumped for a well-deserved tea and coffee break. The everyone flocked to the adjacent room, where delicious coffee, various flavours of tea and sweet treats were waiting to be gulped and chomped down by the excited team over conversations about microbes, Mars missions and more. Everyone then returned to the Hub theatre, carrying the previous conversations and enthusiasm with them, to be greeted by more excellent presentations, which involved a rock sample from Icelandic volcanoes and sniffing-out the volatile organic compounds that may be markers of life. The research presented was rich and exciting and showcased the promising individuals at AstrobiologyOU.

Then came the lunch break and in this room the magic happens – one could chat with PhD students about microbe samples from the high Andes or about future missions to Mars or the icy moons. The room was buzzing with talk about astrobiology, science, life and the scrumptious food, until the buzzing of the crowd began to transfer itself yet again to the theatre. Breaking into small groups they began to discuss the question ‘where will astrobiology be in five years?’. While no one was a psychic, there were some pretty good ideas and goals, from ideas about samples returned from Mars, further research which people wanted to see and even personal goals such as setting up their own research group! After shuffling up the groups it was time to answer the question ‘where will astrobiology be in 20 years’. The answers were delightfully wild, with the expansion of the astrobiology talent pool, missions to icy moons and maybe even Venus as well as the idea of a research lab on Mars itself coming up! The refreshing ideas filled the room with confidence in AstrobiologyOU, confidence in the researchers and hope for the future. They day was the bought to a close by Susanne and Hannah with their summary and closing speeches, praising the all for their hard work.

So, what does the future hold? Where might astrobiology be in 5 years? In 20 years? All we can do is wonder, all we can do is guess, and only with time can we see what excitement is hidden in the future. 

Mario Toubes-Rodrigo playing the Autoharp

Even still, the research day can make us sure that AstrobiologyOU is on the right tracks, their research has already borne fruits and, so long as bright minds like these are at the helm, the course of astrobiology looks bright also. The day was kindly finished by Mario’s second, sing-along, performance to put a nice and jovial end to the day. Stay tuned to follow us on our journey along this bright course! 


A special thanks to everyone who organised, contributed to and funded this event.


Abdul-wahaab Jamshaid


 Abdul-wahaab Jamshaid
 is an Outreach Coordinator (Intern) with AstrobiologyOU