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Janice Bishop Receives International Prize

Janice Bishop Receives International Prize

The Helmholtz Association, Germany’s largest science research organization, has bestowed its International Fellow Award on SETI Institute Senior Research Scientist, Janice Bishop.

Janice Bishop in Germany

The Hemlmholtz Foundation award allows Bishop to travel to Berlin and work with colleagues there. Her research focuses on identifying the composition of ancient martian rocks, an endeavor that sheds light on the environment of this intriguing world as it was billions of years ago. Much of her work uses the CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars) instrument on-board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the Red Planet since 2005. The task set for CRISM was to “follow the water,” to study Mars’ hydrological history and aqueous environment. A better understanding of the quantity, duration, availability, acidity, temperature, and saltiness of water on the surface of Mars in the distant past will shape attempts to find evidence for ancient life there.

“I am working with scientists at the DLR (German Aerospace Center) and the Freie Universität (FU) Berlin to overlay mineralogy identified using CRISM data on topographic imagery from the HRSC, the High Resolution Stereo Camera aboard the Mars Express orbiter,” says Bishop.

“With this technique, we are able to image the mineral stratigraphy of the martian landscape with a resolution of 18 meters. This is a powerful tool for understanding the geology of Mars and is enabling insights into the ancient geochemical environments at locations such as Juventae Chasma, Libya Montes, and Mawrth Vallis on Mars.”

Bishop benefits from being able to more easily work with colleagues at the DLR and the FU, rather than having to accommodate the nine hour time difference between California and Berlin.

The Helmholtz Foundation also invited Bishop to an annual event, Falling Walls, an international conference on future breakthroughs in science and technology. This conference takes place each November, on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. The festivities in 2014 included meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and a dinner near the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the wall coming down.

In addition to her Helmholtz award, Bishop has also received a grant from the Humboldt Foundation to work at the FU Berlin this spring. The grant is known as a Research Fellowship for a Renewed Research Stay because Bishop is an alumna of their postdoctoral fellowship program.

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