NASA’s chief scientist to speak in St Andrews

Professor John Grotzinger.
Professor John Grotzinger.
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Curiosity Rover’s chief scientist and renowned geologist, Professor John Grotzinger, will visit the University of St Andrews next week to deliver a public lecture as part of the Andrew Carnegie Lecture series.

The lecture, entitled ‘Curiosity’s mission of exploration at Gale Crater, Mars’ will take place in the Medical and Biological Sciences Building Lecture Theatre, North Haugh, St Andrews on Monday, 29 September 2014. Doors will open at 5.15pm for the lecture which will begin at 5.45pm; entry is free and open to all and seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Professor Grotzinger is currently the Project Scientist for the Mars Scientist Laboratory mission and member of the Mars Exploration Rover Science Team; he is also a Fletcher Jones Professor of Geological Sciences at Caltech. As a geologist, his interests lie in the evolution of surficial environments on Earth and Mars.

The Mars Science Laboratory’s rover, Curiosity, is part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, a long-term effort to explore the red planet, study the rich environmental history of early Mars and to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. Professor Grotzinger will discuss the latest findings from the Curiosity Rover and its exploration of Gale Crater, followed by a Q&A session.

Speaking ahead of the event, Professor Peter Clark, Vice-Principal (Principal’s Office) said: “Thanks to the generosity of the Carnegie Foundation, University staff, students and members of the public have a fantastic opportunity to hear Nasa’s Mars Probe Chief Scientist speak about the latest results from the Curiosity Rover and its exploration of Gale crater. Though, as everyone knows, the Red Planet has exercised enormous influence over literary and scientific imagination for millennia, we now have a huge store of factual information about Mars and have come closer and closer to answering absolutely fundamental scientific questions about the origin and existence of life in the Solar System beyond the Earth. Please come along and hear one of the World’s leading authorities speak about that extraordinary and deeply alien environment. This is a terrific opportunity for us.”

Professor Grotzinger’s lecture is the second in the University of St Andrews Andrew Carnegie Lecture Series, a programme of lectures that will be delivered annually over the next ten years, and follows world famous philosopher Michael Sandel who delivered the opening Andrew Carnegie Lecture earlier this year.

The series of events aims to create a platform for international speakers to engage with a Scottish audience on issues that mattered to Carnegie himself. Funding was provided as part of the centennial celebrations of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, created in 1911 – one of the many institutions and organisations established by the Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A former Rector of the University of St Andrews, Carnegie donated much of the wealth he generated to help improve society, with a particular focus on education. This also led to the foundation of the Carnegie Trust for the University of Scotland in 1901.

Anyone interested in the lecture can also join in the discussion live via Twitter, using the hashtag #StAGrotzinger