Graduate students and faculty at the autumn 2018 Astrobiology Field Trip to Death Valley, CA
Sunset over Death Valley, CA
Students and faculty at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab on the Spring 2018 UWAB workshop.
Students and faculty at Yellowstone National Park on the Fall 2015 UWAB workshop.

Welcome to Astrobiology at the University of Washington

UWAB Headlines


Searching for Life in the Great Beyond

The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington covered a story on Searching for Life in the Great Beyond . In the interview, Professor Victoria Meadows highlights how team members are working towards answering the question of: Are We Alone? "At VPL we use simulators with different capabilities to figure out what instrument would work best to make the sort of observations we want to make. We share this information with NASA, because NASA wants to know how it can use its assets to best search for life in the Universe.” The Virtual Planetary Laboratory is so instrumental in identifying the needs of future space technology that NASA recently awarded it a grant totaling $11 million over the next five years. MORE>


UWAB faculty are accepting new students this year

For prospective graduate students considering applying to UW: the Astrobiology program is accepting applicants for the Dual-Title Ph.D. program! The deadline is January 15, 2019. See the Admissions page for faculty accepting new students. MORE>


Modeled Climates and Spectra for Possible Evolved Climates for the Seven-Planet TRAPPIST-1 System

The TRAPPIST-1 system hosts seven terrestrial-sized planets, in and around the habitable zone of their small M dwarf host star. Since M dwarf stars exhibit a long superluminous pre-main-sequence phase during which its planets likely experience extreme volatile loss, the TRAPPIST-1 planets may have highly evolved, possibly uninhabitable atmospheres. Resultant possible atmospheres may be post runaway atmospheres like Venus, dominated by CO2, or be dominated by O2 as a result of severe water loss. These atmospheres exhibit spectroscopic signals in transit that may be observable by the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. For more, read this new paper led by Andrew Lincowski, Ph.D. Candidate in Astronomy and Astrobiology. MORE>


NASA Astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins visits the Genome Sciences Department

Graduate students and postdocs from the Astrobiology Program and Genome Sciences Department met with NASA astronaut Dr. Kate Rubins to discuss how scientific experiments are performed aboard the ISS. A summary of Dr. Rubins's visit was published by the UW student newspaper, The Daily. MORE>


Profs. Toner and Catling awarded the NASA Habitable Worlds Grant

Profs. Jonathan(PI) and David Catling (Co-I) were awarded a new 3-year NASA Habitable Worlds grant for a project with the title, "The Composition and Habitability of Enceladus’ Ocean”.  The project uses experiments and theoretical modeling to understand the chemistry of Enceladus' ocean based on spacecraft measurements of erupting plumes. MORE>


"Ghost Dunes" on Mars

Work by UW NASA astrobiology postdoc, Kenzie Day (who has just started as an Assistant Professor at UCLA), and her advisor, David Catling, was featured in a blog  at the American Geophysical Union MORE>


Will We Know Life When We See It?

UW researchers in the Virtual Planetary Laboratory led and were co-authors on a series of papers published in the journal Astrobiology outlining the history — and suggesting the future — of the search for life on exoplanets. In this set of papers, researchers investigated the most promising signs of life (biosignatures), and considered how to interpret these signs if we were to detect them on an exoplanet. “For life to be detectable on a distant world it needs to strongly modify its planet in a way that we can detect,” said UW astronomy professor Victoria Meadows. The NASA press release can be found here. MORE>


Astrobiology Top 10: How Phosphorus helped oxygenate Earth's Atmosphere

A paper by Astrobiology student Mike Kipp (ESS) and AB Alumna Eva Stueeken (2014), now at University of St Andrews in Scotland, has been recognized as one of the Top 10 astrobiology discoveries of the year by Astrobiology magazine! The paper can be found here MORE>


Marshall Styczinski awarded NASA Earth & Space Science Fellowship

Astrobiology Graduate Certificate and Physics Ph.D student Marshall Styczinski, was just awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (NESSF)! Marshall's project is focused on applying multifluid plasma models to Europa. The end goal is a better understanding of how Europa's oceans are distributed, by comparing simulated spacecraft data to measurements by the Galileo mission.  MORE>


Josh Krissansen-Totton receives Graduate Dean's Medalist Award

Astrobiology/ESS student Josh Krissansen-Totton was awarded the annual UW College of the Environment “Graduate Dean’s Medalist Award” for outstanding academic achievement as a graduate student! Josh has published eight papers as a graduate student, and on six of those he was the first author. Congratulations Josh! MORE>


UW Astrobiology Director Victoria Meadows Receives the Drake Award

The SETI Institute’s prestigious award is named for Dr. Frank Drake, the pioneering astronomer who founded the modern field of experimental searches for intelligent civilizations among the stars, and the first President of the SETI Institute’s Board of Trustees. He is also the creator of the Drake Equation, acknowledged by many to be a roadmap for astrobiology, or the study of life in the Universe. Previous winners of the Drake Award include Charles Townes, a Nobel Prize winner for his work on developing masers and lasers, and William Borucki, the Principal Investigator for NASA’s Kepler mission, which has discovered thousands of exoplanets, including many with the possibility of sustaining life. Meadows will be the first woman to receive the Drake Award. MORE>