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Website Title: Gigniks: Astrobiologist (NASA JPL)
Description: An interview with an astrobiologist. WHAT YOU DO: An astrobiologist tries to reproduce life in a laboratory and to use his or her discoveries to make educated guesses about where else life may exist in the Solar System. EDUCATION: Most helpful toward a career as an astrobiologist is a postgraduate degree in astronomy/astrophysics or a related discipline, including biology, chemistry, geology, and physics. In school, you'll study all of these sciences plus advanced math, and you'll use computers and other complex equipment to do research. USEFUL SKILLS: An astrobiologist benefits from research skills, analytical skills, organizational skills, complex problem solving abilities, and concentration. You'll need to be prepared to collect and process large amounts of scientific information and draw reasonable conclusions from it. HOW TO GET IN: During your undergrad years, start by taking science courses outside of your major - it will benefit you to understand many different areas of science. Get involved with professor-run research projects at your college. CAREER PATH: A good way to start is by getting information about the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) team in your area. The NAI offers internship programs for undergrads and fellowship programs for grad students. While in school, continue to participate in professor-run research projects, attend seminars and do research to learn about projects that interest you, and connect with people at other institutions whose work intrigues. With a postgrad degree and a fellowship, astrobiologists can work at NASA, universities, national labs, independent institutions, and other places around the country and world. PAYBACK: Grad student: $24,000 Postdoc: $30-$70,000 Education/public outreach: $60,000 Government lab research: $90-150,000 DOWNSIDES: Because you manage your own time, you have to become self-disciplined enough to complete long-term projects. No one is going to tell you what to do or how to do it, but you'll be expected to get it done. To share your work with others, you'll need to writing and communication skills in addition to knowledge of science. Above all, you need to be prepared to deal with failure; many of your experiments won't work out exactly like you expected. FUTURE OF JOB: The field of astrobiology is growing as more research projects are being funded. However, you'll have to take the initiative; openings can be hard to find, so you should think creatively and develop networking and writing skills, to develop and pitch ideas that astrobiology institutions will respond to. NETWORKING: The NASA Astrobiology page has information about education, research opportunities, internships and fellowships, and more: Video produced by students at LACES (Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies) working with Gigniks' career media program.

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