Who is Neil Banerjee?
As a staff scientist under contract with Texas A&M University, Banerjee managed an international research project, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, involving scientists from more than 20 countries. In 2005, the project successfully drilled through a complete sequence of the upper layers of the oceanic crust near Costa Rica and into a layer of igneous rock known as gabbro, which is formed from solidified magma. This was the first time such a feat had been accomplished in intact ocean crust and was ranked by Discover Magazine as one of the top eight Earth Science stories of 2006.
In 2007, Banerjee, now with the University of Western Ontario, led at team of Canadian scientists that announced the discovery of the "oldest indisputable evidence of life on Earth—the fossilized trackways of slithering microbes in a 3.35-billion-year-old rock from Australia. The Australia research, for the first time, used a laser-plasma mass spectrometer at the University of Alberta to precisely target tiny minerals and organic residues. As a result, the Canadian Space Agency is funding Banerjee's team for research into volcanic rocks in Canada's Abitibi region near Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, and Kirkland Lake, Ontario that are similar to those in Australia.
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