Astrobiology is an emerging, interdisciplinary scientific field of study that aims to understand life in the universe. Students who take up the course will study to find answers to questions on the origin of life, our existence, the possibility of other living beings across the multiverse.
This field covers the most elusive topics including, life and its origin, history of life on Earth, habitable environments elsewhere in our solar system, the search for habitable exoplanets, Extraterrestrial Intelligence, mass extinctions, and radiations, among other intriguing theories of life.
It is a broad discipline that requires a complete understanding of an alien environment from geology, chemistry, physics, engineering, and biology. This emerging field requires bringing together cross-pollinating alliances between scientists across disciplines.
With the progress of space missions, astrobiology has become an eagerly explored career path. Astrobiology is a unique field that sits at crossroads of fundamental research, technology development, education, and scientific communication.
It is the prime dominion of space agencies such as NASA, ISRO, Roscosmos, who have flown several missions into outer space. The next decade will see further exploration of other worlds, carefully scanning the atmosphere, the surface, and interiors to answer the question ‘is there life beyond earth?’
Who can take up this course?
An applicant to bachelor’s in astrobiology needs to have a science background. In order to pursue master’s degree in the stream, one needs a BSc or BTech degree in geology, chemistry, biology, physics or related field.
Career aspects after the course
The skill sets picked up by astrobiologists are useful for several industries such as biotechnology, energy, epace, defense, and nanotechnology.
In India, there are several government research institutions where a potential astrobiology graduate can apply for full-time positions in state and central government laboratories under the department of biotechnology, department of science and technology, department of space, and ministry of earth sciences.
Overseas, various astrobiology centres and programs are available for graduate and doctoral researchers in this field like NASA Astrobiology Program, Australian Centre of Astrobiology, Centre for Astrobiology Studies, Madrid, Earth Life Science Institute (ELSI) Japan.
The career applications of Astrobiology can be across varied fields of astronomy, environment research, geology, post-secondary teaching, university-based research, space sciences research, biomedical research.
— Written by Dr Siddharth Pandey, Head, ACOEA Amity University Mumbai