Unraveling the origins of life on Earth and determining whether life exists beyond the Earth will likely be two of the most significant scientific discoveries in the 21st century. The Program in Planets and Life is an interdepartmental, multidisciplinary plan of study designed for students interested in these two questions. The goal is to provide students with an understanding of the fundamental astrophysical, chemical, biological and geological principles and engineering challenges that will guide our search for life in extreme environments on Earth and on other planets and satellites in the Solar System and among neighboring planetary systems. Research on and teaching of these topics are typically performed under the rubric of Astrobiology.
The Program will equip participating students with the skills they will require to assume a leadership role in discovering the origins of terrestrial and extraterrestrial life over the next decades. The cooperating departments from which the Program in Planets and Life draws faculty and other resources include Astrophysics, Chemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Electrical Engineering, Geosciences, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Operations Research and Financial Engineering, and the Woodrow Wilson School.