Astrobiology at the University of Colorado
The field of astrobiology has as its goal understanding the potential and actual distribution of life in our solar system and in the universe. It addresses the origin and evolution of life on Earth, the occurrence of habitats capable of supporting life in our solar system, and the potential for planets and life to exist orbiting other stars. The goal of astrobiology is to utilize modern science to address the age-old question of “are we alone?”. Astrobiology is inherently an interdisciplinary field that brings together major aspects of astrophysics, planetary science, geology, atmospheric science, chemistry, molecular biology, and evolutionary biology. In addition, it crosses the boundaries into the humanities, with connections to philosophy, sociology, history, and journalism, for example.
The CU Center for Astrobiology (CAB) brings together faculty from the component disciplines to provide a suitable research and teaching environment. Faculty participate from departments and institutes across campus; in addition, we have ties to programs at Lockheed-Martin Astronautics in southwest Denver, to Ball Aerospace in Boulder, and to Southwest Research Institute in downtown Boulder. Major activities that have been sponsored by the CAB since support for the program was initiated in 1998 include research in all of the component disciplines, seminar series in astrobiology jointly with many of the participating departments, public symposia on major issues in astrobiology, scientific workshops to bring together the local astrobiology community, and support for both graduate and undergraduate courses in astrobiology and extraterrestrial life.
The CU Center for Astrobiology is located within the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, and acts as a central umbrella to coordinate astrobiology research, teaching, and outreach activities. Participation in the Center is comprised of faculty and students from more than a half-dozen departments and research institutes spanning the physical sciences, the biological sciences, and the humanities.