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 2017 marks the 13th 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 (see the 2017 AbSciCon conference website), and as stand-alone conferences. Since it is organized and attended by only graduate students, post docs, and select undergraduates (see below), 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 2016 conference website to see what's happened in the past.



Where is AbGradCon 2017 being held?

AbGradCon 2017 will be hosted by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, VA from June 5-9, 2017. The conference venue and attendee lodging will be at the Omni Hotel in Historic Downtown Charlottesville.

When is AbGradCon 2017?

The Technical Program for AbGradCon 2017 runs from June 5-8, with participants departing at their convenience on June 9. The program begins at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 5th. Participants should plan to arrive in time. If necessary, we can help arrange affordable accommodations Sunday night if you cannot arrange to be in town in time on Monday. There is no financial support to offset this cost, however, it should be minimal. The science program ends with the closing dinner on Thursday evening. Participants will depart throughout the day on Friday.

What accommodations are available?

Participants will stay in double occupancy rooms at the Omni Hotel in Historic Downtown Charlottesville.

How do I get to the conference?

Charlottesville has its own region airport (CHO), which is served by American, Delta, and United airlines and offers 50 daily non-stop flights. Additionally, the Charlottesville train station, served by Amtrak, is only about a 10 minute walk from the Omni Hotel. Greyhound bus service from DC is also available.

Travel and Reimbursement

Please keep all of your receipts from your travel to and from the conference. Travel reimbursement forms will be handed out during the conference. At the end of AbGradCon, you will turn in those forms and the relevant receipts for reimbursement. Please note that reimbursable air travel should be on US carriers.


The application for AbGradCon 2017 will be available around mid-December, with a deadline in early February.

Who can apply?

In general, AbGradCon is intended for graduate students, as well as early-career researchers and postdocs within 2 years of their graduation. Undergraduates who are entering a graduate program in Fall 2017 will be considered first-year graduate students. Exceptional senior undergraduates with research experience have attended AbGradCon in the past, but priority will be given to graduate students and early-career researchers for both funding and presentation slots.

What kinds of talks and posters are you looking for?

Astrobiology is a multidisciplinary field. Participants will be asked to submit abstracts under one of 8 categories: astronomy, biology, chemistry, education, engineering, geology, planetary science, and society. These will then be evaluated by a member of the organizing committee who has expertise in one or more of these areas.

How are abstracts selected?

Abstracts will be evaluated based on their scientific merit and appeal, novelty, and applicability to astrobiology. Other factors will include clarity of the abstract itself (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 (NAI).

What sort of funding will be available?

We have secured significant funding to defray the costs of attendance for as many applicants as possible. Substantial aid for travel, housing, meals, and registration is available to those with demonstrated need. Participants who arrive and/or depart outside the windows outlined in the schedule will be responsible for their own lodging and food outside of the conference.

What kind of funding is available to international students?

Our funding sources restrict our ability to provide assistance to international participants. At this time, it is recommended for all interested international participants to apply and to indicate their level of funding requirements to attend. We will allocate any funds which are available to defray international participation costs among these applicants, however we are unable at this time to provide any estimate as to the level of funding that will be available.


Should I apply to present a talk or a poster?

We strongly encourage all participants to apply to give oral presentations, as one of the best features of AbGradCon is an incredibly low-pressure environment in which to practice oral presentation skills. However, due to time constraints, we won’t be able to assign all participants to a talk, and those with abstracts in oversubscribed fields may be asked to present a poster.

What is the format for talks?

Talks are likely to be 15 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of discussion. Participants are strongly encouraged to save their presentations as PDFs to ensure compatibility. More information will be available soon.

What is the format for posters?

Posters should be no larger than 4ft. wide by 3ft. tall.

Undergraduate Poster Competition


The AbGradCon virtual undergraduate poster competition is a unique opportunity for undergraduate researchers to practice discussing their current work in a professional format. This year, we ask that students submit a 5 minute video to accompany their poster. Students are encouraged to treat this as if it were a professional poster session, using the poster solely as an aid for the oral presentation. The first place winner will be invited to attend AbGradCon 2017 as a fully funded participant to present their poster at the conference. This will be the first opportunity for many undergraduates to share their work in a professional conference setting. AbGradCon 2017 will be held from June 5th - 9th in Charlottesville, Virginia hosted by the National Radio Observatory (NRAO). The conference consists of two full days of interdisciplinary talks and poster sessions followed by an educational field trip and outreach activity on the third day. Second and third place videos will be presented at the conference by the organizers, or by the applicant if they can provide their own funding. In addition, other exceptional applicants may be invited to present their work at AbGradCon 2017 if they can provide their own funding.

Posters will be judged by a team of individuals selected by the AbGradCon organizing committee, mostly consisting of graduate students from diverse backgrounds. Students will select from the following fields to submit their poster to: astronomy, chemistry, geology, computer science, engineering, biology. Posters should be submitted as a PDF file, no larger than 50MB. Accompanying videos should be in either .mp4 or .mov format, and no larger than 500MB. Videos should not exceed 5 mins. Submission deadline is March 6th, 2017.

Click here to apply.