Student Guide: Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology

For both masters- and doctoral-level students, UWAB offers a Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology. Compared to our Dual-Title PhD track, the Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology has fewer requirements, and students pursuing a graduate degree in any UW home department are eligible to apply. The requirements for the certificate are as follows:


Students must complete a minimum of 18 credits of coursework. These credits must include:

  • ASTBIO 501, “Astrobiology Disciplines” (4 credits)
  • ASTBIO 502, “Astrobiology Topics” (4 credits)
  • ASTBIO 550, “Professional Development for Astrobiology” (2 credits)
  • ASTBIO 575, “Astrobiology Graduate Seminar” (1 credit)
  • ASTBIO 576, “Astrobiology Colloquium” (1 credit)
  • Electives Cognate Course (3 credits)

Astrobiology is a heavily interdisciplinary field. Thus, the UWAB requires students to complete at least three elective or “cognate” credits outside the student’s home department.

There is no fixed list of cognate courses. However, the UWAB program strives to provide up-to-date information about known courses that can satisfy the cognate requirement. Ultimately, the student’s choice of cognate credits should be made in consultation with the astrobiology program administrator.


Field Work & Professional Development

In addition to the required Astrobiology coursework, students must complete the following professional development activities.

  • ASTBIO 600, “Research Rotation” (3 credits, minimum)

Click here for detailed instructions regarding developing, proposing, and completing your research rotation.

Each student is required to undertake a research-training project outside his/her home discipline. Research rotations may be conducted with an astrobiology research group at UW or at another institution. At the end of the rotation, the student will submit an oral presentation and written summary of what was done during her/his rotation project.

Students should begin planning their research rotation as soon as possible (no later than the end of their second year of graduate study). Proposals for research rotations must be submitted for approval to the research rotation supervisor with a copy also submitted to the UWAB Program Administrator.

During their rotations, students are required to enroll in a minimum of 3 credits of ASTBIO 600, “Research Rotation,” with the Astrobiology Program faculty member who will be supervising their research, lab work, and/or field work. If the student opts to pursue an external rotation (e.g., in a lab outside of the university) the student still must (1) identify a current faculty member who will be responsible for monitoring his/her progress during the time away and (2) enroll in ASTBIO 600 with that person.


  • Participation in ONE UW Astrobiology Workshop (offered annually).

The Astrobiology Workshops are non-credit-bearing professional development activities funded and organized by the Astrobiology Program.

Workshops typically involve technical lectures and presentations from faculty members combined with in-the-field research (e.g., sample collection and analysis). Workshops generally last 2-3 days and are scheduled at times least likely to conflict with other activities on the academic calendar.



Though students pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology will likely incorporate astrobiology-relevant questions, topics, and materials in their graduate research (e.g., Master’s thesis or Doctoral dissertation), the Certificate does not impose any specific or minimum research requirement.

However, students are encouraged to highlight their achievements and progress in astrobiology-relevant research during annual progress reviews.


Maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress

  • Minimum Grade Point Average

Successful completion of the program requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 for all coursework counted toward the Certificate.

  • Annual Progress Review

Each spring quarter, the Astrobiology faculty reviews the progress of each student working toward the Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology.  Students complete a progress report and write a 1-page summary of the previous year’s research activities. These materials are then sent to both their advisor and the UWAB Steering Group, who discuss the student’s progress and contact him/her with any concerns or recommendations they may have. This review is in addition to any periodic reviews that may be required by a student’s home department.



If you have questions about the requirements for the Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology, please contact the UWAB Program Administrator at