Astrobiology: Life in the Universe - BEES6741

Faculty: Faculty of Science

School: School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences

Course Outline:

Campus: Sydney

Career: Undergraduate

Units of Credit: 6

EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)

Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 3

Enrolment Requirements:

Prerequisite: 30UOC of Science courses completed

CSS Contribution Charge: 2 (more info)

Tuition Fee: See Tuition Fee Schedule

Further Information: See Class Timetable

Available for General Education: Yes (more info)

View course information for previous years.


Astrobiology is the study of life in the Universe and the chemistry, physics, and adaptations that influence its origin, evolution and destiny. It is an interdisciplinary science encompassing aspects of biology, chemistry, geology and astronomy.

The fully online course format includes short video talks from specialists in these fields, other video presentations virtual field trip experiences, a virtual laboratory exercise developed specifically for this course using adaptive e-learning technology and engaging forum discussion.

Through these media, students will attempt to define life, learn how life is strongly coupled with its environment, how evidence of life can be found in the geological record on Earth, the oxygenation of the Earth, how evolution is demonstrated, and why the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life - whether microbial or intelligent - is important to our understanding of our place in space.

Lectures topics will cover the origin of life and its philosophical implications, extremophiles, the tree of life, fossil records, the history and evolution of Earth and its biosphere, the interactions of life and its environment, the bid to find Earth-like extra-solar planets, planetary and galactic habitable zones, searching for life on Mars and beyond, and more.

Practical work is all online. It will include readings, an essay, a virtual laboratory exercise, a small research project, and a 3-minute multimedia presentation, short quizzes and forums. There is no final exam.

Students from all disciplines are encouraged to consider this course providing they have completed 30 units of credit in science; in exceptional circumstances other students will be admitted at the discretion of the course convenors. Although there are no prerequisites for this course students may find it helpful to also consider PHYS 1160, Life in the Universe, at first level.
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