Outreach: Life Beyond Earth?

BMSIS Young Scientist Fernando Barazzetti led an outreach event at Getulio Vargas School in Florianopolis, Brazil.

Fernando’s engagement was part of his Communications requirements for the BMSIS Young Scientist Program. BMSIS is continuously committed to engaging the public in the wonders of Space Exploration and the Earth System. Our Young Scientist Program continues this tradition by engaging local communities around the world.

Read Fernando’s impressions below:

As part of the requirements for graduating in BMSIS, I took a bit of Astrobiology and extremophiles for students at the Getulio Vargas School, which is a public school in Florianopolis, Brazil, and, in most cases, it has low-income students. This was a great opportunity to present something different to the students of this school. Here at my university, the Biology course has a program called Bio in School. In this program students take their work to schools, in order to show what is done within the university and also to bring some science to the students. This time, Getulio Vargas School was chosen.

On July 1st, 2016, another edition of Bio in School took place and I was there presenting to students the fascinating world of Astrobiology. I asked the following question: “Do you think there might be life beyond Earth?” After hearing their answers, I told them how science tries to find the right answer to this question. I talked about extremophiles and its importance as a study object in Astrobiology and as there are serious studies and research lines addressing this issue.

I had contact with children and adolescents, with school teachers and with other students in my course. Because of this, the approach and scope of the issue were adapted according to the profile and age of the students. Many of the students had contact with the subject Astrobiology for the first time and, of course, they were fascinated, especially when we talked about my work project, the participation in the YSP BMSIS and to have as guiding a biologist who works at NASA. Some students inquired, “but biologist at NASA, how come?”

To facilitate and attract curiosity, many of the students, had the opportunity, for the first time, to view a slide under a microscope with Deinococcus radiodurans, the fascination was great, at times. Even a line was made to see one of the most resistant microorganisms in the world and most studied in Astrobiology. They also had the opportunity to see three bacteria cultures, one with D. radiodurans, one with Methylobacterium longun and another with Methylobacterium sp, the latter was part of my project. For those more interested and for high school students, I made a presentation with images that include Astrobiology to help to give a better explanation and to deepen a little more in Astrobiology.

The interests and curiosities were many, but most proved to be very interested in Astrobiology and also how the extremophiles are important parts to help understand the origin, evolution and the possibility of life beyond Earth and how life adapts and is present in places before said as inhospitable to it.

The result of this exposure was a huge exchange for both school students who experienced a little about Astrobiology, as for me that had the mission to convey some of my knowledge. And this is not an easy task, especially when you are faced with a diverse pubic, children, youth, adults. At times, I was wondering if they had understood what I just explained. But without a doubt, it was an amazing experience and so great that I am already planning to attend the next Bio in School and spread to more people this science area so fascinating called Astrobiology.