South Korean High School Students Learn about Astrobiology in Specially Designed Workshop

Mason News July 23, 2012

By Colleen N. Wilson

South Korea takes science programs and education very seriously, and for young high school students, scientists are like rock stars, according to Mike Summers, director of the School of Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences.

For 25 gifted and talented 10th-graders from Daegu Science High School in South Korea, their week-long trip to Mason this summer provided a chance to meet some of their science idols, tour NASA facilities and work on a project to design a mission to space.

Professor Michael Summers discusses a concept with visiting South Korean students. During the week-long program, the students were tasked to design and propose a mission to search for life beyond Earth. Photo courtesy of Michael Summers 

Summers, who has worked with NASA to help plan and design space missions, is teaching a workshop in astrobiology to the high school students based on the ASTR 301 Astrobiology class he teaches to Mason students during the academic year.

“What’s special about astrobiology is that it’s approached much differently than how we usually teach science,” says Summers. “Traditional education artificially breaks science up into subcategories like chemistry, physics and math. Astrobiology is a natural integration of …

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Mike Summers CV

Michael E. Summers

Professor of Planetary Science and Astronomy

Director, School of Physics, Astronomy, and Computational Sciences (SPACS)

Curriculum Vitae

Contact Information:

School of Physics, Astronomy and Computational Sciences (SPACS)

Science & Tech I, Room 303B

George Mason University

4400 University Drive

Fairfax, VA  22030-4444

Phone: (703) 993-3971

Fax: (703) 993-1269



Michael E. Summers – Research Summary


Prof. Michael E. Summers is a planetary scientist who specializes in the study of a variety of chemical and dynamical processes in planetary atmospheres.  His work is primarily theoretical in nature, but he serves on several space mission science teams in the role of science planning and in the interpretation of spacecraft observations.


Dr. Summers’ planetary research has dealt with the structure and evolution of the atmospheres of Earth, Mars, Io, Titan, Triton, Uranus, Pluto and its moon Charon.  He is a member of the Science Team of the New Horizons mission to Pluto/Charon and the Kuiper Belt that was launched in January, 2006 and performed a flyby of Jupiter in February 2007.  His research on the Pluto-Charon system focuses on understanding Pluto’s atmospheric structure and its rapid loss to space.  His most recent work deals with the gravitational capture of Pluto’s expanding atmosphere by its moon Charon.  His current …

Summary Profile

Mike Summers

Professor, Planetary Science

Director, School of Physics, Astronomy, & Computational Sciences
Affiliate, Space Weather Lab 







Website:  My SPACS Public site (Mike’s site)
Office: 301 Planetary Hall  Fairfax, Va. 22030
Phone: 703.993.3971
Fax: 703.993.1269 


Current Research Interests
Michael E. Summers is a planetary scientist who pecializes in the study of structure and evolution of planetary atmospheres. His planetary research has dealt with the chemistry and thermal structure of the atmospheres of Io (one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter), Titan (largest of Saturn’s moons), Uranus, Neptune, Triton (largest moon of Neptune), Pluto, and Mars. Dr. Summers’ research on the Earth’s atmosphere has focused on understanding middle atmospheric ozone chemistry, coupled chemical-dynamical-radiative modeling of active trace gases, heterogeneous chemistry on meteor dust, the influence of solar variability on the state of the stratosphere and mesosphere, and polar mesospheric clouds and their connection to climate. 

Teaching Interests


PHYS 111 Introduction ot the Fundamentals of Atmosphere Science

ASTR 401 Astrobiology
ASTR 403  Planetary Sciences
ASTR 710 Planetary Sciences and Astrobiology
PHYS 676/CSI 755    Atmospheric Physics II: Atmospheric Dynamics

TEDx Presentation