Just what is AbGradCon?

AbGradCon (Astrobiology Graduate Conference) provides a unique setting for astrobiologically-inclined graduate students and early career researchers to come together to share their research, collaborate, and network. AbGradCon 2014 marks the tenth year of this conference--each time in a different place and organized by a different group of students, but always with the original charter as a guide.

These meetings have been wildly successful both when connected to AbSciCon, and as stand-alone conferences. Since it is organized and attended by only graduate students and post docs, AbGradCon is an ideal venue for the next generation of career astrobiologists to form bonds, share ideas, and discuss the issues that will shape the future of the field. Take a look at the AbGradCon 2013 conference website to see what's happened in the past.



Where is AbGradCon 2014 being held?

AbGradCon 2014 is being held on the campus of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York.

When is AbGradCon 2014?

The Technical Program for AbGradCon 2014 runs from Sunday, July 27th - Thursday, July 31st. Participants should plan to arrive by mid-afternoon on Sunday if they wish to attend the welcome reception and dinner.

What accommodations are available?

Participants will be housed in on-campus dormitories at RPI for the duration of the conference. Rooms will be two-bed, double-occupancy. Same-gender roommates will be assigned at random closer to the meeting. There will be an opportunity to request a specific roommate before final assignments are made, and we will do our best to accomodate such requests.

How do I get to the conference?

Most participants will find it convenient to fly to Albany International Airport (ALB), which is located ~15 minutes from the RPI campus. ALB is serviced by Air Canada, Delta, Southwest, United, US/American, and their codeshare partners.

Amtrak also serves the Albany area, offering train services from New York City, Montreal, Chicago, Boston, and many upstate New York cities (Buffalo, Rochester, etc.)

By car, RPI is accessible via Interstates 87, 88, and 90.

What about local transportation to/from the airport, train station, field trip?

More information on ground transportation will be come available closer to the conference as our funding situation is finalized. It is possible participants will need to provide for their own ground transportation. In any case, we will provide details outlining various options for taking both public transit to/from main travel hubs. Those with special circumstances are encouraged to contact a member of the local organizing committee for more information.

Bus transportation to and from the field trip is included as part of the activity fee.

What is the weather like in Troy in July?

Upstate New York has a relatively temperate climate, with average temperatures around 75 - 85 °F (24 - 29 °C) in July. The region historically receives rainfall ~1/3 of the days each month, so if practical, we recommend carrying a small umbrella, just in case. The lecture hall and other indoor locations are likely to be well air-conditioned, so we also recommend a light sweater or jacket, just in case. If you plan to attend the field trip, a solid pair of tennis shoes, sneakers, or hiking boots is strongly recommended for exploring the caves.


When are applications due?

Applications are due by 17:00 (5:00 p.m.) in the submitter's local time zone on Monday, March 31st.

I missed the deadline, but would still like to apply. Can I?

Late applications can still be submitted after the deadline, however, we cannot guarantee that these will be reviewed. In any case, preference will be given to applications which are submitted on time.

Is there a word limit for abstracts?

Yes - 300 words.

Who is my target audience for my submitted title and abstract?

AbGradCon welcomes any presentation broadly related to the field of astrobiology. As such, the expertise of conference attendees, and the organizing committee, varies widely (e.g., at AbGradCon '13, a statistician presented a talk on the growth of astrobiology as a field - very meta). Your submission should be aimed at an expert scientific audience with general interest in the topic of astrobiology.

Submissions will be evaluated by members of the organizing committee who are experts in the fields indicated in the application, but not necessarily in the specific sub-field being presented. Successful submissions will therefore be crafted as if explaining the topic to a fellow graduate student or postdoc within your department.

I'm a clinical psychologist and I'd like to submit a talk about the impact of alien abduction stories on how the public perceives the scientific rigor of astrobiology. Do you have an expert for that?

OK, so the organizing committee, while diverse, does not cover every area of potential interest to astrobiology. In cases such as this, we will seek an outside referee to offer an informed opinion on the submitted research. This will then be used to guide the committee's final decision. The truth is out there, Scully.

By what criteria will my application be judged?

The committee will consider a number of factors when determining who to accept. These include, but are not limited to: scientific merit and appeal, novelty, and applicability to astrobiology of the submitted abstract. Other factors will include clarity of the abstract itself (i.e. grammar and readability), as well as an applicant's ability to provide partial or full travel support.


Where does AbGradCon get its funding?

The bulk of the funding for AbGradCon comes from a grant from NASA Astrobiology Institute.

How many participants can you fund?

We expect to be able to fund ~70 participants from the United States, although this number is subject to change (in either direction) as our funding situation evolves.

Is funding available for international participants?

At this time, we are unable to provide travel funds for international participants. We are pursuing funding with European and Canadian agencies (proposals have been submitted) to attempt to offer some limited funding to defray travel costs for international attendees, and will update the website as this information becomes available.

What will be covered by the conference?

Food, lodging, and a fixed travel allowance will be provided to all participants who are offered funding. The travel allowance should be sufficient to cover a significant portion of the cost for most US participants to travel to AbGradCon. The exact amount will be detailed in notification e-mails.

What meals are provided as part of the conference?

Sunday: Dinner
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Thursday: Breakfast, Lunch

I need to arrive early/stay late because of my flights. Are accommodations provided for Saturday, July 26th or Thursday, July 31st?

No. Unfortunately, our funding only provides for accommodating participants for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. Extra nights will be the responsibility of the attendee.

OK, can I still stay in my same room?

We cannot guarantee room availability outside the conference nights. However, provided sufficient notice, it is possible you will be able to keep your same room.


I'm presenting a poster - what dimensions should I plan for?

Space will be provided for a standard 3' x 4' landscape poster. Those wishing to present posters in other formats or sizes (e.g. portrait) should ensure the total width of the poster does not exceed 4'.

I'm giving a talk - can I use my own computer?

No. To ensure a smooth presentation process, as well as compatibility with the webcasting, presentations will only be possible using an AbGradCon computer.

I'm giving a talk - what format is acceptable?

Presentations should be saved in modern Microsoft PowerPoint Format (.pptx). Presentations prepared in Keynote, or in PowerPoint for Mac, should be compatible with the presentation computer if saved in this format. You are strongly encouraged to also save your presentation as a PDF, and to bring copies of both the .pptx and .pdf file on a flash drive the day of your presentation.

I'm giving a talk - how long should the talk be?

The amount of time allocated for each talk will not be finalized until a full list of participants is in hand. However, previous years have used a 12 minute talk followed by 3 minutes of questions format which has proven quite successful. In any case, the talk will not be longer than 15 minutes.


As part of our mission to expand awareness of the field, as well as to allow participation in the conference to those who are unable to attend physically, the majority of the oral presentations will be live-streamed via the S.A.G.A.N. web platform. We will also take questions on presentations, in real time, via S.A.G.A.N. chat rooms. Additionally, presentations will be archived for later viewing.

I'm shy and/or my presentation will contain proprietary content I do not wish to see released to the general public or archived at this time.

While it is highly encouraged, we do not require that all presenters consent to a broadcast of their talk. Presentations can be made offline if desired.

Undergraduate Poster Competition

Is the Undergraduate Poster Competition for me?

Are you an undergraduate conducting research in the field of astrobiology? Do you want to get valuable feedback on how to present your research from those who have gone before you? Do you want the chance to win a prize for your troubles? Then the Undergraduate Poster Competition at the 2014 Astrobiology Graduate Conference is for you.

Can you give me more details?

Sure can! We are now accepting electronic poster submissions on your original astrobiology research to be presented as a part of this year's AbGradCon. Entries will be evaluated prior to the official conference by grad students and postdocs who will provide valuable feedback to participants. All entries will be posted online for public viewing. Posters from the finalists will be printed and displayed during the conference poster session to be judged by attendees.

How do I submit a poster?

Posters should be submitted electronically, in pdf format, to abgradcon2014@gmail.com. Please list "Attn: Undergraduate Poster Competition" in the email subject line for all entry materials.

Who is eligible for the competition?

Competition is limited to current undergraduates or those who just graduated in Spring 2014. To be considered for the prize competition, your research advisor (faculty, postdoc, or graduate student) must send an email from their university or institution account to abgradcon2014@gmail.com before the deadline. Their email should support your entry and verify your status as an undergraduate.

International students are welcome and encouraged to participate, but only students at US institutions are eligible for the cash prizes.

Wait - there are prizes!?

Yes! A cash prize of $100 will be awarded to the winner of the competition, and $50 each will be awarded to two runners up.

Are there any size requirements?

Posters may be up to 36 x 32 inches in size.

When is the deadline for submission?

July 14, 2014

Anything else I should know?

All entries will be posted on SAGANet for the public, unless a participant makes a specific request otherwise.