Starting in Summer 2012, the UWAB Program has partnered with eleven schools and departments to develop a Dual-Title PhD curriculum that will allow students to pursue specialized concentrations that result in the degree “Doctor of Philosophy (<Home Department> and Astrobiology).”

Current UWAB-affiliated departments offering a Dual-Title PhD include:

Once admitted to their home department and the Astrobiology Program, Dual-Title PhD students are always fully enrolled in their home department, and the home department will be the unit that awards degrees.The role of the UWAB Program’s faculty, staff, and leadership is to coordinate UWAB course offerings and activities, to monitor student progress toward Astrobiology requirements, and to verify that graduates have completed all requirements necessary for earning the Dual-Title (“… and Astrobiology”) distinction.

To receive a Dual-Title PhD in Astrobiology, students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to any and all degree requirements imposed by their home departments.


Students must complete a minimum of 20 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” (2x 1 credit)
  • ASTBIO 576, “Astrobiology Colloquium” (2x 1 credit)
  • ASTBIO 600, “Research Rotation” (3 credits)
  • Electives Cognate Course (3 credits)

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.

Further details of these required courses and a list of past cognate courses can be found on our Courses page.

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 3 UW Astrobiology Workshops (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.


The research requirements for the Dual-Title PhD are extensive and require a significant commitment of research time and focus. The Dual-Title PhD degree track will require students to pursue a dissertation project that has relevance to the field of astrobiology. As such, students pursuing the Dual-Title PhD will necessarily have to dedicate more time, energy, and resources to astrobiology-relevant research than their peers seeking only a Certificate.

“Astrobiology-relevant research” is broadly defined as research that addresses questions of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the Universe. For example, research in areas that address or are similar to those delineated in the Astrobiology Strategy Document (Ed. Lindsay Hays) would be considered astrobiology relevant; other topics, though, would also be acceptable, pending review/approval of the Standards Committee.

The Astrobiology Program Steering Committee, comprised of UWAB faculty, will review and approve students’ research as astrobiology-relevant prior to the student’s General Exam (or equivalent) and prior to the student’s Final Exam / Dissertation Defense.

For the Dual-Title PhD in Astrobiology, the research requirement is overall astrobiology relevance of the student’s dissertation.

Are you preparing for your General or Final Exam?
Are you ready to submit your research for review?

Click HERE for a detailed instructions regarding the review of “astrobiology-relevant research.”

Research Advising

To ensure that all Dual-Title PhD students receive appropriate guidance and supervision, each student’s doctoral advisor in their home department must also be a member of the Astrobiology Program Faculty.

  • It is the advisor’s responsibility to ensure, at all points during a student’s graduate tenure, that a student’s research is appropriately relevant to the field of astrobiology – this includes closely monitoring the approved astrobiology content of a student’s doctoral research and final dissertation (see “Research” above).

Dual-Title PhD candidates must also have a second astrobiology faculty member from outside his/her home discipline serving on his/her dissertation committee. 

  • This faculty member serves as the Astrobiology Representative (AB Rep) on the committee and is responsible for helping the student recognize and address the astrobiological relevance of their work and ensure that that relevance is adequately maintained throughout the breadth of the entire project and then discussed in the written paper.   Accordingly, the AB Rep should be identified as early as possible during the formation of the student’s dissertation committee, and should be identified before the student’s General Exam.
  • As part of their duties (and as allowed by the home department’s policies) the AB Rep should be invited to attend the student’s dissertation committee meetings as often as possible, as well as the General and Final Exams, however the AB Rep is not required to be part of the student’s reading committee.

Additionally, all students must have on their dissertation committee a Graduate Student Representative (GSR) according to the UW Graduate School requirements.  In order to serve as a Graduate School Representative (GSR), the proposed candidate:

  • Must be a Graduate Faculty member with an endorsement to chair (check Graduate Faculty Locator).
  • Must be clear of any conflicts of interest. The GSR is responsible for ensuring that no such conflicts of interest, or appearance of conflicts of interest, exist, and must attest to this upon request.  Budgetary relationships, personal relationships, or research and/or publication relationships between the GSR and either the student or the committee chair are examples of possible conflicts of interest.

Please note that these requirements impose that a GSR cannot be a member of the student’s department, which includes the Astrobiology Program.

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:

In Spring quarter each year the Astrobiology Steering Committee reviews the progress of each student working towards fulfilling the requirements for the Dual-Title PhD. Students fill out a progress report that includes a summary of the previous year’s research activities, which is sent to the UWAB Program Administrator.  The Administrator communes a meeting between the student’s advisor and members of the Steering Committee where the student’s progress is discussed, and any recommendations are relayed back to the student via the advisor. This review is in addition to any periodic reviews that may be required by a student’s home department.

Failure to maintain sufficient progress will result in a warning letter being issued from the Program Director. If the student is unable to show significant progress within the next academic year, they may be dropped from the program although they may retain their status in their home department. If a student is dropped from their home department and unable to complete a Masters degree, at a minimum, they will be immediately dropped from the Astrobiology Program as enrollment in a home department is a requirement for the Program. Additionally, if a student chooses to terminate with a Masters degree they may continue with the Astrobiology Program to complete a Graduate Certificate in Astrobiology with the understanding that funding may not be available.


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