Expert Exchange: Training on Molecular and Computer-based techniques

Expert Exchange: Training on Molecular and Computer-based techniques

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Ermias Balcha from Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, visited Karen Olsson-Francis and Dr Michael Macey at the Open University, UK, from 18-24 October 2022.

The purpose of expert exchange was for Ermias Balcha to receive training in a combination of molecular and computer-based techniques to catalogue the diversity of microbes in samples collected from hyper-saline environments in the Afar Depression in Ethiopia. Ermias’s studies aim to identify the presence and diversity of novel antimicrobial and their associated production pathways, and potentially identify novel antibiotics within these extreme environments. This is the first time that these microbial communities, which often host unique metabolic adaptations due to their extreme nature, have been characterised in terms of the potential medical applications.

The visit was very successful: the data analysed will contribute to two or three data chapters of Ermias’s PhD thesis, and training has reinforced the exchange of experience between scientific communities in Europe and Africa.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career Support, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Visiting the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Esrange Space Center

Expert Exchange: Visiting the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Esrange Space Center

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

András Illyés of Wigner Research Centre for Physics, Budapest, Hungary, visited Mats Holmström of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden, from 27 June – 1 July 2022.

András is a Mechatronics Engineering student at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and a Research Assistant at Wigner RCP, working on atmospheric magnetic research and involved in the commissioning of a SERF magnetometer for future experiments.

The objective of the visit was to further expand knowledge on ESA-certified development processes and experiments at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF).

During the Expert Exchange, András visited and gained a better knowledge about the test facilities used at IRF, especially the thermo-vacuum chamber and other mechanical test instruments. He learned more about the IRF’s quality insurance system, their CAD/CAM systems and PCB design softwares and about soldering and its quality assurance in workshop. He also gained a better understanding of the usage of SERF magnetometers.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career SupportWidening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: New collaborations between Australia and Botswana for the investigation of terrestrial extreme environments

Expert Exchange: New collaborations between Australia and Botswana for the investigation of terrestrial extreme environments

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Andrea Borsato and Silvia Frisia of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, visited Fulvio Franchi at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana, from 5-16 September 2022.

The visit was intended to initiate a new collaboration between Australia and Botswana and provide training for the academic and research staff in how to select, collect, preserve and analyse specimens of astrobiological and microbiological interest and set up an environmental monitoring program.

The first 4 days of the visit were dedicated to the field trip to Gcwihaba cave (Kwihabe, Ngamiland), which preserves thousands of years of climate and environmental history and can be utilised as an analogue to detect traces of ancient microbial life on Earth.

The following part of the visit took place at BIUST’s geochemical laboratories in Palapye, which include stable isotope MS and the trace element ICP-MS and ICP-OS facilities. The visitors discussed with technical and academic staff strategies and approaches in order to optimise the micro-sampling techniques and geochemical analyses. They also explored opportunities to analyse the trace element concentration of some Botswana continental carbonates samples at the X-ray fluorescence beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, as well as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

During the visit, Dr Borsato and Dr Frisia delivered a workshop and lecture series attended by academic and technical staff as well as post-graduate candidates of the Earth and Environmental Science Department of BIUST. The lectures and workshop sessions were followed by Q&As. Attendees were given pratical and theoretical training in microscopy techniques.

Read the full report from Dr Borsato and Dr Frisia.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Collaboration Between Brazilian Exoss and Romanian MOROI Networks

Expert Exchange: Collaboration Between Brazilian Exoss and Romanian MOROI Networks.

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Marcelo De Cicco, from INMETRO, Brazil visited Iharka Csillik at the Astronomical Observatory of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, from 1-10 July 2022.

The aim of the visit was to develop code to model grazing meteors, attend the International conference on ‘Theory, Observations and Data Processing in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space and Planetary Sciences’ and explore collaborations between the Brazilian EXOSS project, Romanian MOROI networks, FRIPON international network and a Hungarian meteor observations project.

This Expert Exchange visit came about through the Europlanet Mentorship programme, as Iharka is supporting Marcelo to develop skills in meteor science dynamics and publishing. The mentor-mentee pair were featured as a case study in a poster on the mentorship programme at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 (Stonkute et al. 2022).

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career Support, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Improving the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence

Expert Exchange: Improving the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Dr Juraj Orszagh and PhD student, Barbora Stachova, from the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence (LEIF), Department of Experimental Physics, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia visited Dennis Bodewits at Auburn University in Alabama, USA, from 26 June – 3 July 2022.

The aim of the visit was to deepen the existing scientific collaboration between the LEIF group at Comenius and the Department of Physics at Auburn, and to plan future cooperations. The overlap and common interests of the experimental research between the groups are extensive and provide many possibilities for further cooperation in the field of astrophysics and in wider molecular physics. In particular, LEIF output data serve as a reference for analysing astrophysical observations and are useful as input for various models of atmospheres and comas.

As well as visiting facilities and learning more abou the research carried out at Auburn, Juraj and Barbora participated in a colloquium where they introduced the Department of Experimental Physics, their research, and latest experimental results. This led to led to a rich discussion and a proposal for deeper collaboration in the near future, including cooperations to strengthen the capacity of LEIF to produce output data in a format most useful for astrophysical research and make the facility’s contribution to Europlanet efforts more valuable.

Prof Bodewits and Dr Steven Bromley were preparing for a Transnational Access to LEIF later in July 2022, so considerable time was spent discussing the details of the planned experiments aimed at electron-induced fluorescence of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

A further outcome of the visit is support by Auburn University in developing a more progressive teaching methods and active learning techniques to support teachers and students at Comenius University.

Read the full reports by Juraj Orszagh and Barbora Stachova.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Study of Technical Background in Space Development at IRF, Kiruna, Sweden

Expert Exchange: Study of Technical Background in Space Development at IRF, Kiruna, Sweden

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Dr Janos Nagy of the Centre for Energy Research at the Central Research Institute for Physics (KFKI) in Budapest, Hungary, visited Mats Holmstrom at the Swedish Institute for Space Research (IRF) in Kiruna, Sweden from 26 June – 1 July 2022.

The KFKI Campus in Hungary houses two entities, the Wigner Research Centre for Physics and the Centre for Energy Research, which are interested in space physics and space instrument development. The IRF has longstanding experience in instrument development and engineering activities gained from participating in 39 space missions in recent decades. In the past, IRF and Wigner have cooperated in research and space instrument development projects including for Venus Express, BepiColombo, as well as the ongoing work for the Particle Environment Package (PEP) on the upcoming Juice mission to Jupiter’s icy moons.

The development of Juice-PEP involved stricter requirements by ESA than for the previous projects that the KFKI teams had been involved in. To insure fulfillment of these requirements, KFKI aims to strengthen capacity in technology, labs, workshops and quality assurance.

Janos Nagy participated in a Europlanet Expert Exchange visit to give a presentation about KFKI’s activity in developing Direct Current Converter (DCC) for Juice, learn from the experiences and experimental set-up at IRF and to see the thermo vacuum test of the Data Processing Unit (DPU) and DCC designed by KFKI in operation.

A particular area of interest was the cooperation at IRF of researchers, electrical, mechanical, software engineers and technicians. The science/engineering ratio is about 50%, and IRF involves PhD students in the ongoing tasks, who get to know the institute well. Several PhD students continue their career in IRF after finishing their studies. KFKI aims to follow this practice by improving cooperation between scientists and engineers and involving students through topical projects during university diplomas.

Following the visit, the KFKI team plan to apply for funding to purchase a Nanovac TVC025 Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVAC), similar to the one used by IRF in Juice project. 

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice

Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice 

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Fulvio Franchi, Botswana International University of Science & Technology (Palapye, Botswana) visited Dr Zoltán Juhász, Atomki (Debrecen, Hungary) from 24 – 30 May 2022 to trial techniques to characterise methane concentrations in Arctic ice as a potential analogue for studies of icy moons in the Solar System

The study of natural methane content in ice from the Arctic will have a strong relevance as an analogue for the study of Icy Moons such as Europa and Enceladus. Preliminary observation on these celestial bodies have reportedly shown the presence of methane. However, how the methane was produced and what relationship exists between the methane and potential habitability of this celestial bodies is still matter for speculations. The only way to get closer to the truth is by testing natural materials on Earth that resemble the conditions hypothesised on these icy moons.

Ice formed above and/or in proximity of methane seeps in the Arctic sea might provide the right substratum to characterise methane occurrences elsewhere in the Solar System.

Fulvio Franchi visited Zoltán Juhász at the spectroscopy laboratory at Atomki in Debrecen in Hungary through the Europlanet Expert Exchange programme. The aim of the visit was to start to develop a method to prepare natural ice from the Arctic for analysis and run mass spectroscopy for the characterisation of the methane contents. The work will continue back in Botswana where the lessons learnt will help improve the spectroscopy labs.

The main goals of this visit were as follows:

  1. Initiate a new collaboration between Botswana and Hungary for the investigation of potential analogues of Icy Moons;
  2. Train the applicant on the practical aspects on how to run a successful spectral facility in view of the development of a spectroscopy lab at BIUST.
  3. Widening the participation in Europlanet activities by creating a new collaboration between Africa and underrepresented country in EU;
  4. Involve into Europlanet project new potential stakeholders currently active in the study of climate but with potential interest in the field of planetary science.

This visit kick-started a new collaboration between BIUST and Atomki and has benefitted from the collaboration of Prof Panieri at CAGE institute of The Arctic University of Norway, which is active in the field of climate studies, and has shown interest in planetary science.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training and sample analysis

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Keyron Hickman-Lewis of the Natural History Museum, London (UK), visited the team of Barbara Cavalazzi at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Università di Bologna (Italy), from 8-13 November 2021 to participate in a Raman spectroscopy training course and as part of a major ongoing collaborative project for understanding the geobiological and astrobiological potentials of fossil-bearing stromatolites from the East African Rift system.

The Raman spectroscopy course allowed Keyron to familiarise himself with the WiTEC Raman system at Bologna and techniques for data treatment. Following the course, he performed several initial analyses of microbialite samples. During the Expert Exchange visit, Keyron advised on the preparation and process for conducting micro-CT analyses of stromatolites and conducted preliminary optical microscopy analyses of stromatolitic materials with Barbara and a doctoral candidate in her research group, Victor Amir Cardoso Dorneles Fo. This portion of the visit contributed to a major ongoing collaborative project for understanding the geobiology and astrobiology potentials of fossil-bearing stromatolites from a well-studied planetary analogue, the East African Rift system. These microbial structures are known to have developed in extreme environments that may resemble aqueous settings on the Noachian Mars and are, as such, prime targets for biosignature detection and astrobiology.

Keyron is co-supervisor for Victor’s PhD, so during his Expert Exchange visit they discussed Victor’s project direction, the availability and use of samples in both his own collections and those at the University of Bologna, and possibilities for fieldwork and sample acquisition throughout 2022. Victor has also now visited the NHM in London through another Europlanet Expert Exchange to be trained on various techniques using the samples that they prepared together. 

Read the full report

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Frédéric Foucher of CBM, CNRS, Orléans (France), visited the team of Barbara Cavalazzi at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Università di Bologna (Italy), from 8-12 November 2021.

Frédéric Foucher delivering training to the team at the University of Bologna. Credit: B Cavalazzi.

The main objective of this Expert Exchange visit was to provide training on theoretical and practical aspects of Raman micro-spectroscopy and imaging, in order to support development of the Bologna lab facility and to reinforce collaboration between the groups.

Raman spectroscopy is a versatile technique used to detect and identify organic molecules and minerals in many fields of research, from biology to Earth sciences. Advances in miniaturisation of components and the development of Raman microscopy imaging has led to its use in multiple space exploration missions. NASA’s Perseverance rover, which has been exploring the surface of Mars since February 2021, is equipped with two Raman spectrometers (SuperCam and SHERLOC) and the future ESA-ROSCOSMOS ExoMars 2022 mission will carry the Raman Laser Spectrometer instrument. Raman spectroscopy is a key instrument for astrobiology to study ancient and active traces of life on Earth, and to detect possible traces of life on Mars.

Recently, a team led by Barbara Cavalazzi at the University of Bologna acquired a WITec Alpha 300 Raman microscope, which will be used to study materials of astrobiological interest as well as for more general geological and biological applications. Frédéric Foucher has been in charge of a WITec Alpha 500RA since January 2009, and was one of the first researchers to use a WITec system in Europe. Now recognized as a specialist, he published several articles and book chapters on this technique during the last decade. 

Frédéric Foucher delivering training to the team at the University of Bologna. Credit: B Cavalazzi.

During the expert exchange, Frédéric gave theoretical and hands on training for 20 researchers, students and technicians.

Read the full report

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvements to Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

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