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AbGradE Symposium 2014

Participants and keynote lecturers of the first AbGradE symposum 2014. Photo courtesy AbGradE, Baptiste Journaux.

First AbGradE symposium successfully launched
AbGradE (Astrobiology Graduates in Europe) is a newly formed association of European early-career researchers in the field of astrobiology. The group emerged in response to the rising need to foster multidisciplinary inter-European collaboration as well as the creation of a solid scientific and social network across Europe’s astrobiological scene. An additional goal is to set a common interdisciplinary background in astrobiology ranging from astronomy to geology, chemistry and biology.

One of AbGradE’s initiatives in 2014 was to hold the first symposium in Edinburgh, UK, 10–11 October, organized by Mickael Baqué, Thomas Gautier, Baptiste Journaux, Lena Noack, Paloma Serrano, Eugenio Simoncini, Cyprien Verseux, Vassilissa Vinogradoff and the two local organizers from the UK Centre for Astrobiology, Toby Samuels and Petra Schwendner. This event was strongly supported by the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA).

The AbGradE symposium started with an icebreaker event and consisted of two days of scientific sessions combined with networking, a round table, a public outreach and education event. Approximately 40 enthusiastic and motivated early-career astrobiologists from all over Europe and beyond attended the symposium presenting their work in a talk/poster on a very high level, followed by discussions that enhanced sharing ideas with their contemporaries.

To get an overview of astrobiology, renowned keynote speakers were invited to introduce the main subfields. The public outreach event allowed for close communication between the graduates and the public in a relaxing atmosphere. The symposium was funded by a broad range of institutions, so that all attendants were provided with travel grants and a low-cost symposium fee to support their participation.
Following overall positive feedback after the symposium, the committee is planning to hold the symposium biyearly along with the EANA meeting. Every other year, a rather informal social event will take place the weekend before the EANA meeting.

Schedule The symposium hosted about 40 participants consisting of graduate students and early career postdocs. The conference was held in 2014 for the first time, and will continue every other year. We plan a smaller meeting in the years inbetween.

The symposia consist of two days of scientific sessions and an event dedicated to public outreach and education.

Several invited keynote lecturers gave a basic introduction into the main subfields of Astrobiology, helping new graduate students and post-docs in the field to understand the research of the other participants. This was also be a useful introduction to the sort of topics that were discussed in the succeeding EANA meeting (13th to 16th of October 2014), which was also held in Edinburgh.

All participants presented their work with a talk or a poster, unless they were presenting at the Space Factor contest during the succeeding EANA meeting. This enabled early career astrobiologists to expand their horizons by forming collaborations and sharing their work and ideas with their contemporaries, a critical element in such an interdisciplinary field as astrobiology.