College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022

Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science

Astrobiology, Minor

Astrobiology is one of the fastest developing subfields of astronomy and planetary science, with a particular emphasis on the formation of life on Earth and other planets, survival in extreme environments, and the “migration” of life through space. This minor combines a broad astronomical perspective and understanding to students with interests in the formation, evolution, and survival of life on Earth under a variety of environmental conditions. Students minoring in Astrobiology will be prepared to provide a cosmic perspective to more traditional biological and ecological fields, while this strong biological and ecological background will also enable students to truly appreciate the uniqueness of Earth and comparisons to other planetary bodies both within and outside of our own solar system.
 

Careers

What Can I Do with a Minor in Astrobiology?

Students minoring in Astrobiology will benefit from a strong foundation in astronomical, biological, ecological, and environmental principles. This foundation will prepare students for fields in industry, laboratories, research facilities, government organizations, K-12 education, and academia. As a minor, this degree is designed to provide broad perspectives and a foundational appreciation for the scale of space and challenges that may arise in the investigation of astrobiology. Skills including creativity, problem solving, teamwork, and concept integration are emphasized in this degree and would help to broadly and holistically prepare students for their future endeavors, specifically in technological and scientific fields of high and emerging growth. NASA’s recent emphasis on astrobiological research is also evident through the expansion of their Planetary Protection Office and the growing number of astrobiology-related federally funded grants (and new funding programs) awarded over the past decade.

Career opportunities that might be pursued:
  • Governmental, academic, and industrial lab settings
  • Graduate programs focusing on astronomy and planetary science
  • Emerging industries and research areas both nationally and in Arizona

With further education, one of these paths is possible:
  • Graduate programs in related fields
  • Research lab directors and academic instructors, lecturers, teachers, and faculty
  • Researchers for institutions including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory 


University Requirements

  • A minor is earned in conjunction with a bachelor's degree.

    To receive a minor (18 to 24 units) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject matter areas with a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0. At least 12 units of the minor must be unique to that minor and not applied to any other minor.

Overview

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Please note that students may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

No more than 50% of the units used to satisfy minor requirements may be used to satisfy major requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 23
Highest Mathematics Required MAT 137

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this minor in Astrobiology is to combine a broad astronomical perspective and understanding to students with interests in the formation, evolution, and survival of life on Earth under a variety of environmental conditions.  The wide variety of electives available through this minor option highlights the interdisciplinary nature of this growing field and emphasizes the unique avenues that students can pursue to gain a strong foundational background in this growing field.  Specific courses in microbiology, astronomical scales and perspectives, and biological responses to environmental factors will constitute the bulk of the required coursework.  Students minoring in Astrobiology will be prepared to provide a cosmic perspective to more traditional biological and ecological fields, while this strong biological and ecological background will also enable students to truly appreciate the uniqueness of Earth and comparisons to other planetary bodies both within and outside of our own solar system.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students minoring in Astrobiology will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate the properties and conditions that likely lead to the formation of life at or near planetary surfaces;
  • Understand the linkages between biological evolution and the geological and astronomical conditions that facilitate, promote, encourage, and require such evolution to occur;
  • Describe what makes the Earth unique from the perspective of planetary habitability, and articulate the challenges that must be overcome on other planetary bodies; and
  • Critically evaluate the requirements necessary to perform “traditional” biological and ecological studies on other planetary bodies, which would help to inform current efforts to search for extraterrestrial life beyond Earth.

Details

Minor Requirements

Campus Availability



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