The University of Arizona

Astrobiology Core Undergraduate Courses

Students will choose 9 units of core courses from the following list:
 

Astronomy 488A (Astrochemistry): This astrochemistry course is the study of gas phase and solid state chemical processes that occur in the universe, including those leading to pre-biotic compounds. Topics include chemical processes in dying stars, circumstellar gas, planetary nebulae, diffuse clouds, star-forming regions and proto-planetary discs, as well as planets, satellites, comets and asteroids. Observational methods and theoretical concepts will be discussed.  
 
Astronomy 475 (Planetary Astrobiology): This course will explore the processes related to planet formation, the properties of planets and the planetary conditions required for the emergence of life. We will study the formation of our Solar System and exoplanetary systems, the distribution and properties of exoplanets, and the potential habitability of other planets/moons in our system or extrasolar systems.  The course will also review science cases and possible future astrobiology studies, both in site and via remote sensing, of astrobiologically relevant environments. Toward the end of the semester a few guest lectures will highlight particularly exciting and timely topics.
 
Planetary Sciences 450 (Origin of the Solar System and Other Planetary Systems): This course will review the physical processes related to the formation and evolution of the protosolar nebula and of protoplanetary disks. In doing that, we will discuss the main stages of planet formation and how different disk conditions impact planetary architectures and planet properties. We will confront the theories of disk evolution and planet formation with observations of circumstellar disks, exoplanets, and the planets and minor bodies in our Solar System. 
 
Astronomy 406 (Nature and Origin of Life): From a combination of astrophysical, biochemical, and geological circumstances, living systems developed on Earth. The origin of terrestrial life is still highly uncertain, but is fundamental to Astrobiology. This course will provide a basic understanding of what life is and associated biochemical/biophysical processes. It will present the most current scenarios of how and why life developed on Earth, and how it might evolve on other planets, in and outside our Solar system. Topics will include the structure and function of biomolecules, including enzymes, proteins, and nucleic acids, the role of membranes, physical and chemical conditions on young Earth, the RNA World, the Ribosomal Tree of Life, evolution of living systems as traced by the fossil record, and non-carbon based life. The course is designed for both advanced undergraduate and graduate students in the physical sciences who want to understand more of the biological/biochemical aspects of living systems and how they came to be. The course is intended to take the student's current perspective in physics, astronomy, chemistry, planetary sciences or geology, and broaden it with additional understanding from each of the other fields and from biology/biochemistry.
 
Geosciences 484 (Coevolution of Earth and the Biosphere): This course examines the interplay of changes in earth environments and biological evolution from the earliest life to the present.  The focus is geochmical and topics include the early earth and life, evolutionary jumps, massextinctions, and the rise of hominds.
 
Molecular and Cellular Biology 315 (Key Concepts in Quantitative Biology): This one-semester introductory course covers key principles of molecular and cellular biology, with an emphasis on contemporary quantitative approaches such as systems biology and genomic analysis. Topics to be covered include cellular growth control and cancer, the role of viruses in human disease, developmental biology, and stem cell research. It is intended both for students in the life sciences interested in quantitative methods and for students outside the life sciences with an intellectual curiosity about biological systems. The course will provide an integrated conceptual foundation in biology and develop critical thinking skills and quantitative problem-solving abilities. Students will be expected to work on group projects, on-line assignments, presentations, problem sets, and essay exams, and to participate in class discussions and group problem solving. Discussions will explore readings in current scientific literature.