UW Astrobiology offers a variety of graduate coursework in astrobiology (both core courses and electives on featured topics), as well as an introductory course at the undergraduate level. A list of our current courses can be found below:


  • ASTBIO 115 – “Life in the Universe”
    • 5 credits
    • Cross-listed As: ASTR 115BIOL 115ESS 115, OCEAN 114.
    • Introduction to the new science of astrobiology, the study of the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and the search for microbial and intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe. Designed for non-science, liberal arts majors. Satisfies “Natural World” Requirement.


  • ASTBIO 501 – “Astrobiology Disciplines”
    • 4 credits
    • Offered in Autumn, alternates years with 502.
    • Review of research and subject matter relevant to astrobiology from within the disciplines of biology, astronomy, oceanography, atmospheric science, chemistry, planetary science, and geology.
  • ASTBIO 502 – “Astrobiology Topics”
    • 4 credits
    • Offered in Autumn, alternates years with 501.
    • Investigation in detail of research topics of current interest.
  • ASTBIO 550 – “Professional Development for Astrobiologists”
    • 2 credits
    • Offered in Winter, alternates years with 575.
    • Seminar in preparation for the academic job market: writing and reviewing grant proposals, building and managing interdisciplinary research teams, understanding the multiple career paths available in astrobiology, interdisciplinary teaching, and professional ethics.
  • ASTBIO 575 – “Astrobiology Winter Seminar”
    • 1 credit
    • Offered in Winter, alternates years with 550.
    • Largely peer taught seminar that explores an Astrobiology research topic in detail.
  • ASTBIO 576 “Astrobiology Colloquium”
    • 1 credit
    • Offered in Fall and Spring.
    • Colloquium on current Astrobiology research given largely by visiting scientists.
  • ASTBIO 600 – “Astrobiology Research Rotation”
    • 3 credits, minimum
    • Can be taken any time.
    • A research experience in a different research environment to the student’s home department or as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration.

Elective & Cognate Courses

Astrobiology is a heavily interdisciplinary field. Thus, the UWAB Program requires students to complete at least three elective credits by taking a “cognate” course, with a course code outside the student’s home department. A course can still qualify as a cognate when cross-listed in the student’s home department, if deemed an appropriate cognate course by their astrobiology advisor.

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 his/her astrobiology advisor.

Past cognate courses have included:

  • ASTR 497 / ESS 490 / ESS 590 “Topics in Current Astronomy”
    • “Topics” courses vary frequently and only some versions will satisfy the astrobiology cognate requirement. Check with the instructor or your advisor before enrolling. Previous approved versions include “Exoplanets” (Prof. Meadows) , “Planetary Science & Astrobiology” (Prof. Catling), and “Geomicrobiology” (Prof. Buick, Prof. Gorman-Lewis).
  • ASTR 555 – “Planetary Atmospheres”. Cross-listed As: ATM S 555, ESS 581.
  • ASTR 556 – “Planetary Surfaces”
  • ASTR 557 – “Origin of the Solar System”. Cross-listed As: ESS 583.
  • ATM S 508 – “Geochemical Cycles”. Cross-listed As: OCEAN 523CHEM 523.
  • CENV 500 – “Communicating Science to the Public Effectively”
  • ESS 450 – “Paleobiology”
  • ESS 517 – “Early Earth Evolution”
  • ESS 581 – “Planetary Atmospheres”
  • GENOME 570 – “Phylogenetic Inference”
  • MICROM 530 – “Evolution of Prokaryotic Diversity”
  • OCEAN 454 – “Hydrothermal Systems: An Interdisciplinary View”
  • OCEAN 530 – “Marine Bacteria, Archaea, and Viruses”
  • OCEAN 570 – “Marine Microbial Interactions”

Other cognate courses for consideration:

  • COM 540 – “The Rhetoric of Science”
  • ETHICS 291 – “Ethics in Science”
  • ETHICS 591 – “Ethics Matters in Science: Research Questions as Moral Questions”