Frequently Asked Questions

> What are the admissions requirements? What kind of GRE scores, coursework, etc, do I need?

The Astrobiology Program has no specific admissions requirements beyond being admitted to one of our affiliate departments or schools, which will serve as your home department. Please refer to the requirements of the home department for GPA, GRE scores, and other requisites.

> How do I submit my application? What documents should I include?

You can apply by sending your materials to astrobio@uw.edu, or to the mailing address on our contact page. While we used to require a copy of your application to your home department, we now require only your astrobiology-specific statement of interest.

> When is the admissions deadline? What happens if I apply late?

The priority deadline for the upcoming year can be found on the Admissions page of this site. This is not a hard deadline. We will still accept applications after this date; however, we cannot guarantee that you will be considered for the upcoming year. Keep in mind that this is not your only deadline. Check with your home department to ensure you are aware of their application due date, as well.

> When will I be notifed about whether I've been admitted?

Since admission to the Astrobiology Program is dependent upon being accepted to a home department, notification will happen some time after their decision is made, usually by the end of March.

> Can I apply as a current UW graduate student?

Yes. Most students choose to apply to both their home department and astrobiology at the same time, but you can still apply to the Astrobiology Program after being accepted to your home department. Some students even wait until the second or third year of their program to apply. The only issue is making sure there is enough time left in your degree to complete the astrobiology coursework. If you have questions about course scheduling, please email the Program Administrator, Tina Swenson.

> Is there a restriction on my home department if I am only applying for the certificate?

Although our dual-title PhD program requires that you choose from one of our participating departments, our certificate program does not have this requirement. Students from any UW graduate program may apply to our certificate program; however, we do expect that your degree will have some relevance to astrobiology and that you will be able to articulate your intention in your statement of interest. We encourage applicants from non-science backgrounds, and recognize the value of our program for those pursuing a career in science education and public outreach. One thing to keep in mind is that if you are pursuing a degree in a department that does not provide funding, this may affect your overall tuition costs.

> How can I be a good candidate for your program? What kind of background do you look for in an applicant?

Because each of our students must first be accepted into an astrobiology-related graduate program at UW (e.g. Astronomy, Biology, etc.), getting into your home department is the first hurdle, and you should aim to be a strong applicant for the department of your choice. While astrobiologists must be able to collaborate with many different types of scientists, they must still be experts in their own discipline. Your home department will want to see that you have a thorough preparation in your field, and interdisciplinary work will often be less of a priority for them. 

A good candidate for the Astrobiology Program will have a solid foundation in one of the sciences relevant to astrobiology, but will be curious about other topics, and willing to collaborate with those from different backgrounds. Assuming you have been accepted into the graduate program of your choice, having cross-discipline experience is fantastic. We do look favorably on our applicants having some coursework, a minor, or research experience in another astrobiology-related discipline.

> What kind of funding is available for astrobiology students?

Astrobiology graduate students are typically supported by teaching and/or research assistantships, and once a student is admitted, securing this funding is the responsibility of their advisor. TA and RA positions cover tuition costs, and also provide a modest stipend. The Astrobiology Program also has funding available to cover research rotations and student participation in workshops. Many astrobiology students are successful at obtaining additional funding through NSF and NASA fellowship programs.

> How do I find out about specific research topics / projects?

If you are interested in a particular research topic, you should check out our faculty members' profile pages. Many of them have personal webpages where you can learn more about their research. While specific projects will change over time, this can help you better decide which research groups may be a good fit for you. If you are interested in a faculty member as a potential advisor, it is a good idea to email them directly to ask whether they are taking on new students.

> Can I do research with UW faculty members not listed on the website?

All of our dual-title PhD students must be advised by an astrobiology-affiliated faculty member. If you are interested in working with a faculty member who is not listed on our website, they must be willing to become part of the astrobiology faculty. For those already in one of our participating departments, this is a simple process. However, if they are not in a participating department, their department must first become affiliated with the Astrobiology Program.

> How long does the Astrobiology Dual-Title PhD take to complete?

In addition to your home department's requirements, the Astrobiology Program’s dual-title PhD coursework component (minimum 20 credits) requires two full-time quarters, and completing a research rotation takes another quarter. Our students are also required to participate in three workshops, which are offered annually. A preliminary survey of our alumni shows that these requirements typically add a year to their graduation time. However, this is not always the case, and many of our students are able to graduate in the same time period as their peers in their home discipline.

> Can I visit the department?

If you are a potential graduate student, you can inquire about arranging a private visit by contacting us at astrobio@uw.edu. If you are a school or special interest group, we would prefer to come to you! Let us know what your needs are, and we can very likely arrange to have an astrobiologist visit your group. Also, we occasionally host a public seminar series, with lectures on a variety of astrobiology-related topics.

> Does the Astrobiology Program offer an REU / summer internship program?

At this time, we do not have any summer internship opportunities available for external applicants. Our research opportunities are primarily for our enrolled graduate students. We may consider making this an option in the future, if we have faculty members with the time and resources to support it.

> Does the Astrobiology Program offer distance learning opportunities?

While we do not currently offer any online astrobiology courses, we are working to create one. In the meantime, for a broad exposure to many astrobiology topics, you can check out past videos/podcasts of our seminar series (and seminars from other institutions as well) linked from the NAI website.

> I'm an international student. How do my credits transfer to UW?

Admissions information for international applicants is available on the FAQ section of the Graduate School’s website.

> How can I learn more about astrobiology at UW?

Under the "News & Events" heading above, you can access the latest issue of our e-newsletter, as well as podcasts of our past seminar series. If you'd like to be notified about upcoming seminars and other special events, you can also email us at astrobio@uw.edu to request to be added to our events mailing list.