The Path Forward: Publication, Teaching, and a Summer “Abroad”

I recently sent off my manuscript to the coauthors for review. Our goal is to finish up the final revisions to submit it in time for Icarus’ Special Cassini edition issue. I also received an offer to teach Astrobiology in the Winter 2019 term. Beyond that, have been granted funding to travel home (abroad) to Atlanta for the summer where I will work with my old adviser Dr. Britney Schmidt and her PhD student Jacob Buffo on a project I touched on in June 2018. Although, first I have to finish proctoring and grading for Earth Rocks this semester.

I have my work cut out for me, and I think we are the point where I’m in need of a good old timeline to set some goals for myself.

Manuscript

The manuscript has been sent to the coauthors. We have to make revisions to their suggestions. Then we have to send it to the Cassini team to repeat the process before the actual submission in January.

  • December 21st: Deadline for coauthors to return suggestions
  • January 1st: Deadline to send updated draft to Cassini RADAR Team
  • January 10th: Deadline for Cassini RADAR Team to return suggestions
  • January 10th-15th: Make final revisions and submit to Icarus

Teaching Astrobiology

I applied to teach Astrobiology (I think a 3rd year course) in lieu of Catherine next semester. I got the offer (which I was expecting), so I can officially say I will be teaching it next semester. Catherine has generously offered me all her material for the lecture and labs. However, I still have to prepare for the lectures and decide if there are any changes I want to make. I suppose this all will seem obvious, but I think it’s necessary to approach this large problem step by step to avoid issues.

I have to organize the course material (Class site, etc.). Then create a timeline for the different subjects. I need to decide when lectures are covered and how to fit labs around them. The class project needs deadlines set up. These are all initial steps that need to be taken this month.

Even though I have the lectures, I need to sit down and develop my own approach for each lecture. That means, reading through each respective chapter and making sure I have an idea of what I am presenting it and how I want to communicate it. This is the most taxing thing I think. I need to begin this this month as soon as possible because I want to make sure I’m not falling behind with the course. Ideally, I’ll have 4 weeks (8 days) worth of material lined up, but I still need to make sure I have a clear plan on how to continue the process as the semester continues.

I have plans to change at least one of the labs. I need to get into contact with a professor at the University of Washington to get started. That may or may not happen, but I need to start working on that. With that in mind, I want to work through at least some of the labs to see if there is room for improvement. Particularly the one I helped make two years ago. I’d put these tasks as lower priority because what we have works, I’d just like to see if we can make it better. I’ll translate it to excel later.

  • December 7th:
    • Set up OWL (online site), make schedule, update syllabus, organize material from Catherine. Plan Project timeline.
    • Get in contact with Dr. Rory Barnes at UW!
    • Review First Lab: Lab 1: What is Life?
  • December 10th-14th:
    • Set up meeting with Gavin to discuss first couple lab and course set up (he won’t be here until the day of lab that first week). 
    • I could include the second TA, but I am not sure if it’s for sure.
  • December 14th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 1: Astrobiology and Life
    • Review Lab 2: Solvents for Life
  • December 21st:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 3: Life’s Structure
    • Review Lab 3: Viking Labeled Release
  • January 4th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 5: Energy for Life
    • Review Lab 4: Titan’s primordial soup
  • January 7th-9th: Meet with 2nd TA
  • January 11th:
    • Prepare lectures for 1st half of Ch 6: The Tree of Life
    • Set up Outline to new lab
    • Do Lab 1; Ch1
  • January 18th:
    • Prepare for 2nd half of Ch 6: The Tree of Life
    • Develop Methods and Question for new lab
    • Do Lab 2; Ch3
  • January 25th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 7: The Limits of the Biospace
    • Complete/Troubleshoot lab; send to TAs to complete and make suggestions
    • Do Lab 3; Ch5
  • February 1th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 16: The Habitability of Planets
    • Do Lab 4; Ch11
    • Review Lab 5: Is it science?
  • February 7th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 17: The Astrobiology of Mars
    • Do Lab 5; Ch12
    • Review Lab 6: Tree of life
  • February 14th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 18: The Astrobiology of Icy Moons
    • Do Lab 6; Ch6p1
  • February 21th:
    • Prepare lectures for Ch 19: Exoplanets (Last Chapter)
    • Review/ Edit/ Update Lab 10: Icy satellites lab (Cassini INMS)
      • Lab 7 would be the new lab developed earlier in semester.
  • February 28th:
    • Do Ch6p2; Midterm/ Lab break
    • Review Lab 8: Remote sensing and Intro to JMARS
  • March 1st:
    • Do Lab 7; Ch7
    • Review Lab 9: Mars landing site selection
  • March 8th:
    • Do Lab 8; Ch16
    • Review Lab 10: Icy satellites lab (Cassini INMS) L11
  • March 15th: Do Lab 9; Ch17
  • March 22nd:
    • Do Lab 10; Ch19
    • Begin project presentations
  • March 29th: More presentations; Report Due
  • April 5th: Grade reports
  • April 12th or so: Finals

Organics in Titan Crater Melt

I’m going to use some of the content I proposed this internship for background.

Dr. Schmidt and her team have been studying the Antarctic ice as an analogue for the Europa ice-ocean interface. Mr. Buffo has been developing a model of this boundary on Earth where it can be tested and validated, and then a few parameters are changed for application to the Europa environment. It follows the interactions between the salt impurities and the ice. One thing we see on Earth, is that even when the water-ice is pure, salty brine layers may still form within the ice.
Dr. Schmidt, Mr. Buffo, and I are working to apply his model to Titan melt ponds to better understand how the organics will be collected in the ice. The biggest obstacle in applying this to Titan will be substituting Titan organics for the salty brines being modeled on Earth. It requires an understanding of their physical properties in water. Some assumptions will need to be made, but we believe this will help improve Dragonfly’s search for biomolecules on Titan.

I did a rough plan for the internship, which will extend between Monday May 13th, 2019 and Friday August 30th, 2019. chose the middle of May to allow ample time for finals to be completed and processed at both universities. The nearly 4-month internship is meant to provide abundant time for learning, troubleshooting, and application. I ended it in August because classes at Western University begin in September.

Below is a plan for while I am there.

  • 2 weeks for troubleshooting issues I have understanding the existing model
  • 2 weeks to familiarize myself with Mr. Buffo’s results
  • 1 week discussing how we will go about applying the code to Titan
  • Titan atmospheric and melt pond environment
  • 3 weeks implementing Titan specific molecules in the code
  • 2 weeks troubleshooting using the new molecule
  • 6 weeks to apply the molecule for different crater environments
    • 2 weeks modeling 40km crater sized melt pond near the surface for non-draining ponds
    • 4 weeks modeling ~80km crater sized melt pond near the surface (2 weeks) and near the middle of the melt pond (2 weeks) for a non-draining and draining ponds

That’s probably not new for Catherine, but for others it may be. It’s also nice to have it here to reference more easily. I still take it a step further, because May is a ways away and I need to begin looking at this more closely. Realistically, I’ll be tackling the very problems that are listed above, but nevertheless I’ll write out clear deadlines to strive for.

  • January 18th: Understand how the existing model works. Run, repeat, experiment. Review all available reading material.
  • February  1st: Understand the role of brines/salts vs organics. Understand what is required to substitute it and what out options are.
  • February 8th: Test the limits of the existing code. What can be changed. What it does to the system.
  • February 15th: Try regular code under Titan physical conditions (rather than composition).
  • March 29: Try a new molecule (HCN? vs salinity)
    • Find required chemical and physical inputs for molecule
      • may require some code based methods
    • Try testing it
  • April: With finals and projects, I’ll leave this free. Plus, if I make it to the March 29th step, I feel certain thats where I’ll need to sit down with Jacob to begin making the code work.
  • May: Take it from there to the list above.

Bonus: Crevasses in Greenland Glaciers

Several years ago, I submitted a paper for my undergraduate work with Dr. Schmidt mapping crevasses or fractures on Helheim glacier. This observational paper was rejected. Firstly, it was my first attempt and there is plenty of room for improvements writing wise, but more fundamentally, they needed more. They need use to analysis our results and to quantify them.

 

Dr. Catherine Walker, Britney’s one time post doc, was going to do modeling using them. I’m not sure where that went, but we wanted to get my work published as well. More specifically I want to. I began working on quantifying these results. I had hoped to get it done much sooner. That has not happened. There has been a lot of troubleshooting mixed with long bits of no progress do to other responsibilities by all parties involved. We have all tried to return our eyes to this to bring it to fruition. I have been working with undergraduate student Kathrine Udell who has done similar work to what I’ve done. Shes done other types of mapping in addition to fractures. I did not. However, I’ve worked to get results for my glacier, Helheim and for her’s, Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier. 

I should take a step back and say, I’ve developed a code in matlab to quantify the maps. Katherine has helped me refine it to both improve our results and identify the best way to present the data. Presentation has been the biggest hurdle. Deciding how to talk about this type of data. This is already become more detailed than I intended, but long story short, I developed a grid to measure the fractures across the glacier. We’re looking at including orientation as well. This is a quick view of the most recent output.

orientation

I don’t want to get lost in the methodology, but the point is, we reaching our close. We don’t plan on working on this over the summer because we intend it to be submitted by then, so I need a plan. I need a plan that somehow gets me a paper with all I have ahead of me.

  • December 14: Outline of paper with major Figures and a clear idea of other figures left to make.
  • December 21: Finalize figures and send in depth outline to Britney, Catherine (Walker) and Katherine with a K (this has been my life for the last 2 years).
  • January 14th-25th (after Icarus paper is submitted): Methodology
  • January 28th-February 15th: Results
  • February 18th-28th: Introduction and conclusion.
  • March 1st: Send out for review.

I need to run these dates by them, but I like them and think its reasonable. Up to now, I haven’t done much with the paper. I’ve been so lost in the methodology; we have finally reached a point where we are comfortable with the approach we are using. Obviously, this is my lowest priority, but it’s something I need to think about. I’m glad I at least have something written out there. 

Update: I’ve discussed this with my adviser, and I’m being too ambitious. I need to postpone this until the summer.

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jjoshh

MSc student in Geophysics with CPSX at Western University in Ontario, Canada. My research is on Titan crater relaxation.

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