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Eric Sysoev
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Astrobiology



Students in the astrobiology program receive a broad education in areas that include planetary science, extrasolar planets, and the origin of life. At the same time, students take a solid core of mathematics, physics, and biology courses, allowing them to pursue a wide range of interests.




astrobiology



Astrobiology degree graduates are ready for graduate studies in astrophysics, planetary science, or biology, as well as careers in the aerospace or biotech-related industries. Whether you want to study the effects of space travel on humans, discover past or present microbial life on Mars, or help develop ways to sustain life on the moon, you will be well prepared with an astrobiology degree from Florida Tech. Here, you'll develop a strong background in physics and biology and get hands-on experience with space science technologies.


The faculty advisor to Astrobiology program majors is a former astronaut who conducted astronomy research in two space shuttle missions. As a student in the program, your first year includes a first-year seminar that provides an excellent introduction to the career options and research areas open to students majoring in astrobiology.


Florida Tech professors encourage all students seeking an astrobiology degree to become involved in activities and research projects for immediate immersion in "real science," not just text learning. Students typically join a research group early in their study at Florida Tech and get experience in hands-on, high-caliber research. You can also undertake exciting collaborative research with a peer or professor, or work independently in a topic of your choosing. As a result, you get practical experience, an enhanced job search portfolio, and the perfect preparation for graduate and professional school or employment.


After receiving their astrobiology degree, many of our students go on to master's and doctoral programs at Florida Tech and other prestigious universities, including Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, and Yale.


Because Florida Tech has the first and only undergraduate astrobiology program in the country, it is the premier university for students interested in the space sciences. You can search for evidence of abiogenesis, or get involved in projects at the NASA Space Life Sciences Lab.


Faculty members at Florida Tech are top researchers in their fields and are committed to the success of our students. The advisor to the astrobiology program is a former astronaut who conducted astronomy research in two shuttle missions. Our physics and space sciences professors include a TED Global Fellow and an NSF Career Award-winner.


Students have access to the Ortega 0.8-m telescope, one of the largest research telescopes in the Southeast, allowing students to observe extrasolar planets and other cosmic phenomena. Faculty and students use this telescope as their main training and research instrument, but also have easy access to the Southeastern Association for Astronomy (SARA) 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Additional facilities available for students at this astrobiology university include:


Florida Tech is the perfect place for an astrobiology university. The 130-acre campus is located on the Space Coast (so named because of the presence of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral just north of us). In addition to the many academic benefits our students gain at Florida Tech, the university also has connections to world-leading aerospace companies such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and Harris Corporation. These relationships enable our students to form valuable connections that lead to future career opportunities.


Beyond the classroom, astrobiology majors build leadership and professional experience through exciting internships (see below) and participation in academic organizations like Sigma Pi Sigma (the national physics honor society), Beta Beta Beta (TriBeta, the national biological sciences honor society), Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, the Student Astronomical Society, the Society of Physics Students, and over 100 other student organizations. These clubs give students the chance to network with other people interested in space and the sciences, allowing for opportunities to make the connections that can help kick start an astrobiology career.


An astrobiology career gives you an opportunity to apply many areas of science to your job from astrophysics to biology, chemistry, astronomy, planetary science, and geology. An astrobiology career could have you studying the effects of space on human and animal life, categorizing the properties of exoplanets, or collecting ice core samples in Alaska.


NASA describes an astrobiology career as an interdisciplinary field that requires a comprehensive, integrated understanding of biological, planetary, and cosmic phenomena. Students who are interested in a high-tech career at space agencies, in research and development or in working for the federal government are the perfect candidates for an astrobiology career.


As such astrobiology is very much an interdisciplinary endeavor encompassing a wide range of scientific fields such as, but not limited to; biology, astronomy, chemistry, geology, atmospheric science, oceanography, and even aeronautical engineering.


Arguably one of the foundational experiments in astrobiology was 1853's now infamous "Miller and Urey Experiment." Scientists from the University of Chicago Stanley Miller and Harold Urey simulated conditions on the primeval Earth and showed the chemical compounds that are considered the foundational building blocks of life arose naturally from simple chemical processes. Their experiment found that with just water, ammonia, hydrogen and methane as well as an electrical spark to mimic lightning, several protein precursors (necessary for life) including amino acids were formed.


NASA would perform its first astrobiology mission in 1959, initially referring to the field of study as "exobiology," by designing an instrument to scour extraterrestrial environments for the signs of microbial life. This would lead to the foundation of NASA's life sciences program which became the responsibility of the Ames Research Center (ARC) where exobiology would eventually broaden its horizons and become the field of astrobiology as it exists today.


"NASA's current astrobiology program addresses three fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe?" former director of NASA's Ames Research Center, G. Scott Hubbard wrote (opens in new tab) in 2008 for NASA's 50th anniversary.


Hubbard explained that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is so interwoven with what it means to be human, that astrobiology extends beyond the sciences, however. "Politics, science, personalities, and serendipity all contributed to the creation and success of what is now called astrobiology as a field of inquiry," he wrote.


NASA says the JWST's impact on astrobiology comes from its ability to observe the formation of stars from their first stages to the formation of planetary systems thus allowing astrobiologists to observe the kind of elements that are present as planets form. The JWST is also capable of measuring the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems and thus allowing astrobiologists to investigate the potential for life in those systems.


The study of exoplanets and their atmospheres and thus astrobiology received another significant boost at the start of 2023 when NASA unveiled plans for a future telescope to succeed the JWST. The primary goal of this telescope, the Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO), will be to search for the signs of life on Earth-like worlds.


Comic book fans with a keen interest in space science may be interested in NASA's series of Astrobiology graphic novels (opens in new tab). These publications explore a wide range of astrobiology topics including the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. Explore the latest discoveries and research in astrobiology with astrobiology.com (opens in new tab). Learn more about the Miller-Urey experiment with these resources from the online education website StudySmarter (opens in new tab).


The Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology is open to field studies in any area of interest to astrobiology. Applications will be reviewed by a committee that includes members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the APS, and the wider science community as needed. Recipients will be designated as Lewis and Clark Field Scholars in Astrobiology.


When appropriate, applicants should provide assurances that safety measures will be taken for potentially hazardous projects. When necessary, the applicant and his or her supervisor should describe the field training that will be provided and the provisions for experienced supervision. The applicant should reference the connection of his or her project to astrobiology via the Astrobiology Roadmap. This information should be included in the Statement of Purpose.


The Chair is open to scholars and leading thinkers in the fields of philosophy, history, religion, astrobiology, astronomy, planetary science, the history of science, paleontology, Earth and atmospheric sciences, geological sciences, ethics, literature, media studies, or other related fields.Check out the current Chairs' podcast "Space on the Page."


GSFC personnel are involved at just about every level of every major astrobiology endeavor, from the incorporation of astrobiology into spaceflight missions and instrumentation, to the leadership of agency-level astrobiology initiatives, to leadership in international astrobiology organizations, to leadership of and participation in multiple successful peer-reviewed awards for research projects large and small.


The Astrobiology minor is an interdisciplinary minor. It is managed by Prof. Matthew Fantle in the Department of Geosciences, and he is the primary contact for all formal questions about the astrobiology minor. 041b061a72


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