How to become an astrobiologist


The Knowledge[For my popular science book on astrobiology, Life in the Universe: A Beginner’s Guide click here.]
[For The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch click here]


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*** *** *** Apply for a PhD position with me (Deadline 24-Feb) *** *** ***

I often get emailed by people wanting to know how they can get involved in astrobiology – what A-levels or university degree they should pick to become an astrobiologist, or just how they can find out more about what’s happening right now in the field. So I thought it would be useful to compile my various responses into a single post here.

The encouraging reality is that you can get into astrobiology from pretty much any scientific background you like. I did a first degree in biology, but I have astrobiology friends who have come from physics, astronomy, chemistry, or geology. Astrobiology is a very ‘interdisciplinary’ field and sits as the Venn diagram overlap in the middle of many different kinds of science, and this breadth and diversity is exactly what makes astrobiology so exciting.

Europa (credit: NASA)

Unfortunately, there aren’t any dedicated undergraduate degrees in astrobiology in the UK, although several universities do offer a module as part of a wider degree in, for example, geology, planetary sciences, biology, or physics and astronomy. So the best route would be to work hard at A-levels, and then choose a degree in whichever subject you find most interesting – you really need to be passionate about something to study hard at it for three to four years. My little secret is that I found biology my least interesting course at A-level (not that my teachers were any less inspirational than those for physics, chemistry or maths) – it’s a lot of learning the names for things, labelling diagrams, and memorising five-point essays on DNA replication. But, building on this base of knowledge, it really blossoms into an incredibly fascinating subject at undergraduate level – learning about the molecular machinery that makes life work, for example.

So if you want to become an astrobiologist, you could study pretty much any STEM subject at university.

Also, bear in mind that you don’t necessarily need to enrol to actually attend as a student – the Open University offers courses, including a module in astrobiology, by distance learning. The University of Central Lancashire offers a University Certificate in Astrobiology. Another good option for nurturing an interest is to take a MOOC (massive open online course) such as this one run through the University of Edinburgh, although you won’t get course credits towards a formal degree.

If, once you’ve graduated with your degree, you still want to be an astrobiologist you can move into the field by applying for a PhD studentship. If you’re lucky, you might see something relevant advertised in the back pages (or online) of magazines like NewScientist or Nature journal, but for a relatively niche field like astrobiology you’ll probably need to be a little more proactive in finding a good opportunity for further study. The best strategy is to identify a research group that is involved in the part of astrobiology you are interested in – whether that’s extremophile microbes or astronomical searches for exoplanets – and contact the PI (principal investigator) of the group to ask whether there are any PhD positions available. It would be a very good idea to first have an explore around the group or lab’s website and read some of their recent papers, so you’ve got a good appreciation of what they do and how that fits with your own interests. This is slightly out of date now, but I published a paper in 2009 that surveyed the astrobiology research groups active in the UK (download pdf here) that might be helpful to get you started. For those interested in opportunities in the US, there is a little advice about the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

E_coliThere are also societies you may be eligible to join to keep yourself up-to-date with developments and for support throughout your career. Postgraduate students, post-docs or staff members can join the Astrobiology Society of Britain (I sit on the committee of the ASB). As a member of the ASB you’ll be able to attend their biennial conference and will receive regular newsletters listing PhD and post-doc opportunities and upcoming meetings and other announcements, and the website provides a lot of other useful information, including book reviews of the past few years of publications. Another society that may be of interest is the UK Space Biomedicine Association (UKSBA), who also host regular conferences open to all. I’m also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society (it’s only £1 to join as an undergrad or postgrad student) which I’ve found to be really useful.

If you want to keep abreast of recent advances in astrobiology there are a number of great websites to scan through regularly. My favourites are the Astrobiology magazine and NASA Astrobiology, and for space exploration in general there are of course the NASA and ESA homepages. And finally, if you want to get a book or two for a solid overview of the whole of astrobiology you can sink your teeth into some of these recommended reads. Obviously, I’ve cheekily slipped my own on the top there, but the list below gives a range of great books that are pitched at slightly different levels:

(and for a more complete list, I’ve edited reviews of over 60 new astrobiology books on the ASB website)

Also bear in mind that if you’re interested in astrobiology and space exploration there are many different ways you can get involved in your career. As with any field of science, there is a huge range of jobs available besides research or lecturing at university: you can work in project management and administration (helping space missions get funded and co-ordinating their construction and operation); or in the press office and inform the media and public about what’s going on; or as a journalist writing about the latest discoveries in newspapers, magazines, websites or books; or get into science policy and making sure the government makes well-informed decisions about new laws or funding or other priorities.

You can also read me talk about science careers at:

I hope this has helped and you may also find my Astrobiology Q&A interesting. If you have other questions do feel free to ask through Twitter or email, but please make sure you’ve read through the comments below to check that your question hasn’t already been answered.  Here is a (incomplete) list of astrobiology organisations around the world that would be far better placed to offer you help on national questions:

And finally, if you’re looking to publish some of your astrobiology research, these are some of the field-specific journals (I’m a Senior Editor at Astrobiology journal):


*** *** *** Apply for a PhD position with me (Deadline 24-Feb) *** *** ***


  1. Cereja

    Thank you so much for this information. Having completed the ‘Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life’ MOOC on Coursera last year (and doing it again this year just for fun!), my hunger for this subject has become insatiable, made all the more so due to the apparent lack of courses/available study materials specific to Astrobiology, and not a combination of the Sciences. This may sound lazy, but I am so glad this interdisciplinary subject – as you put it – is gaining more interest. I received an email from Edinburgh University this past week asking me to complete a survey, the purpose of which being to determine the amount of interest potential students have in a Masters in Astrobiology. How exciting!!! I will definitely be checking out the links and list of books you have provided. Thanks so much!!! <3

    • Cristian Ramírez Rodríguez

      Hi Cereja, I also took this course in 2014 passing it with distinction of 94,6%. Professor Charles Cockell is a great scientist and teacher as well. The thing is I’m from Málaga, Spain and I don’t know if the University of Edimburgh has any kind of course or something for international student. I’m taking my second year at a biology degree in order to meake my dream come true which is no other tan becoming an astrobiologist in a future. I’d like to get in contact with you if you know about this survey or about how I can get involved with them. Thank you.

      • Jay

        Sir I’m Jay from India
        I love astrobiology. BSc in which field can help pursuing astrobiology further?? Can astrobiology be done directly after 12 th grade or a bachelor degree is needed. Can I do BSc in India then astrobiology abroad Is it fruitful
        Or I should do both BSC and Astrobiology abroad.Ive good scope for USA

        • lewis

          The article describes which degrees you could pursue before astrobiology. You would probably need a degree, rather than trying to enter any discipline directly from school.

  2. Vicenta Heredia

    Thank you, this was very helpful. I actually ordered a few of the books from the list of reviews.
    My dream is to get involved in astrobiology.

  3. Madeleine

    Thank you so much for answering this question! I am only in high school, but once I heard astrobiology was a newer but fully real field, I got so excited! For years now I have adore physics and math and particle chemistry, but was really torn because I had an amazing biology teacher this year! When I learned there WAS such a field that contain d all of those similar interests, I was so excited! Thanks once again for the info!

  4. Praveen V

    Thank you so much for your information. I am also very much interested on Astrobiology, I am still trying for my PhD in Astrobiology. I have contacted so many of them, but only some of them have sent positive reply. I have also got couple of PhD opportunity, but I cant find funding for it. Your detailed information is very useful for all.
    Thanks again.

    • lewis

      Hi Ramandeep, you might need to retrain at university to learn more about microbiology, for example, but I see no reason why you couldn’t get into astrobiology if you were committed

  5. Palasha

    Thanks!! So does that mean I can apply for astrobiology through medical field too? (I’m studying physiotherapy)

    • lewis

      I do have friends who are involved in space medicine, yes – trying to understand how being in space effects the bodies of astronauts, and how to prevent the worst

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  7. Basab Bijay kanrar

    I am persuing a master degree in Zoology.After my msc i want to do research in astrobiology.If you tell me the way to enter in astrobiology field,i will be grateful to you sir

    • lewis

      Hi Basab, the best way for you to get into astrobiology research after your MSc would be to find universities near you that are involved in research into bacteria surviving in very hostile conditions – the extremophiles

  8. Marcus Skelton

    I am studying Geology from September 2015. Would you view my lack of biological study as a disadvantage when approaching a Astrobiology career?

    Extremely grateful for this information. Some books with great promise to be held on my Christmas list!

    • lewis

      Not at all Marcus – as I say in the blogpost, astrobiology is very interdisciplinary and I know many people working in the field who have come from a geology background

  9. Palash Misra

    I have wanted to get into space science since childhood, but I am pursuing medicine, (MBBS) and I cannot find any careers related to medicine in space. Can I get to astrobiology through medicine? If yes, then what are the steps?

    • lewis

      I do know astrobiologists who have got into astrobiology from a medical background, yes. The other possibility you could look into is to pursue space medicine – i.e. what effects the space environment (such as microgravity) has on the human body and how best to protect astronauts.

  10. K. Anjana Kudva

    Dear Sir
    I have pursued my B.E. (Bachelors in Engineering) in Electronics and Communication. Currently I am pursuing my M.Tech in Astronomy and Space Engineering. I came across Ph.D projects in astronomical instrumentation in UCL (University College of London). I would like to know whether there are any opportunities for Ph.D projects in astrobiology in UCL and if so whom should I contact? Eagerly waiting for your reply
    Thanking You

    • lewis

      Hi Anjana,
      I’m no longer at UCL, but there is still some astrobiology research going on there, as part of the UCL-Birckbeck Centre for Planetary Sciences. Search for Prof. Ian Crawford at Birkbeck and send him an email.

  11. Shipra Bhardwaj

    Hey! I’m a first year student of Life sciences from New Delhi,India. I don’t consider my math and physics too great but biology,chemistry and astronomy interest me.. Astronomy to the extent that even if I have to restart my schooling for perusing astrobio, I wouldn’t give it a second thought.

  12. David Mangion

    Thank you for this holistic article and also for the references.

    I am going to start Bsc(H) in 2015 in Earth systems and I always had a great interest in Astrobiology, could you tell me how I can link the two such as any extracurricular subjects recommended (I looked into my local university and offers some part time courses in Astronomy but stops there) I have Biology A level and Physics at Intermediate level. Thank you !!!

    • lewis

      Hi David,
      I know lots of Earth Scientists/Geologists who got into astrobiology after their first degree. You could focus on biological aspects of your course (such as geomicrobiology), and read around the subject of astrobiology on websites and books. Your lecturers also might be able to point you in the right direction

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  14. Aniket

    Thank you so much sir……..but i have a problem that should i choose every subject (like-planetary science,cosmology,molecular biology etc.) or i have to be specialised in only one subject???? (like either in cosmology or planetary science)

    • lewis

      It would be best to get good experience and expertise in one subject, rather than trying to spread yourself too thinly across all subjects

      • Tejashree Khairnar

        Hi sir I m from India, completing 12th and interested in astrobiology please tell what should I do after this

    • lewis

      Yes, absolutely. I know of a number of people involved in ‘space medicine’ which is all about understanding what happens to astronauts’ bodies whilst they are in space, and working out how to stop the negative effects

  15. Simon Downs

    Hi Lewis
    I’m an amateur astronomer with RAS membership and I’m very interested in getting into the field of Adtrobiology. My background is Environmental Science. I have a BSc(Hons) and MPhil.DIC in this field. I have recently being offered an unconditional place on the MSc in Planetary Science at UCL, starting in Sept 2015, which I wanted to use as a stepping stone for doing PhD in Astrobiology. My concern is that the level of physics and maths on this course may exclude me from successfully completing it. Do you have any knowledge of this course and whether a good understanding of astrophysics and maths is necessary to successfully complete it? Any help would be gratefully received.

    Many thanks

    • lewis

      Hi Simon, if you email me I can put you in touch with past students from that MSc Planetary Science course who might be able to offer you insight into how much physics and maths is required.

  16. Deepak Kapoor

    Thank you sir……. Very useful information. Sir think I’ve sent here on Earth to find out other life beyond this planet………sir I am in final year of my post graduation(microbiology) I just need a way…..

  17. mahboobeh

    Hi… I am a student of Cell and Molecular Biology.I am a third year undergraduate university.I’m interested in a lot of activities in the field of astrobiology.I would like going to college to master degree in my county.but I do not know exactly what I can do for my master that become accepted in all countries in the field of astrobiology.Please help me in this regard, thank you.

    • lewis

      As explained in the article, there are many ways into astrobiology after an undergraduate or masters degree – biology, chemistry, geology, planetary science, astronomy, physics…

  18. Amiya

    Hi sir….i am doing my last year Bsc. in botany…i am very intrested in astrobiology…what should i do….whether i want go for a phd. In astrobiology…..plz reply

  19. Kathleen Rush

    I have my B.S degree in English Education and my Master’s degree in Journalism. I am a TV news reporter. I have applied to Univ. of Edinburgh to get a Graduate certificate in global environmental science. I am going back to the beginning and re-taking Algebra, Geometry, Trig and Calculus in order to get another Bachelor’s degree in Astronomy.
    I would like to utilize all of the environmental reporting I have done as well as the global environmental science classes.
    My goal is to get a Master’s degree in an area that will encompass the knowledge I have of environmental issues on Earth, the courses I take in Astronomy and use them toward a degree in planetary studies. Would this be the correct course of action?

    I would love to hear your recommendations.

    Thank you so much.

    • lewis

      Hi Kathleen,
      Yes, that sounds like a very sensible course of action for combining your past expertise with new training and moving into planetary science. What you should also look into is that at Univ. Edinburgh there is an astrobiology centre run by Charles Cockell, and he may be able to advise further on opportunities there in combining environmental sciences with space.

  20. chandra

    i have passed my Master of science in Geology from calicut university in India 1992. i have been working in oil field for 21 years with financial problem could not continue further education that time. which is the course i can study to serve the science field? specially on line. Astro geo,biology etc.

  21. peterchr

    Hello, I am happy to see many posts pursuing this science! I too am intrigued and would love to work for programs in new mexico maybe las alamos or las cruses.. I wanted to know if nasa takes people with at least a ba in any science?

  22. Krupal Bundela

    Hi i wanted to ask what courses should i join after completing my MBBS to pursue a job in astrobiology?

  23. Karthik

    Hey Lewis,I wanted to know if I could study Astrophysics after studying Geology.I am so much amazed by the interstellar phenomena like pulsars,neutron stars,black holes,etc.As you’ve said that one can take Astrobiology after studying Geology,I wanted to know if Astrobiology covers all these topics as I’ve decided to take B Sc in Geology.If not can you suggest me how I can study those subjects after Geology?

    • lewis

      Hi Karthik, as the article explains, there is a lot of geology involved in the field of astrobiology. Astrophysics as a discipline, however, overlaps much less with geology. But you can always move fields after studying geology

  24. Coleen

    Hi! I’m currently taking BS Forestry. Is it possible for me to take Astrobiology after I graduate?

    • lewis

      You could take a masters course or perhaps even move straight into a PhD studentship in astrobiology from a BS Forestry – you’ll need to check around with universities near you

  25. Liam Arbuckle

    this was so helpful. i am only a highschool student in australia but i have been interested in science pretty much all my life. is there anything highschool students can do to get involved? let me know at

    • lewis

      Hi Liam, well there are certainly lots of good books on astrobiology that you can read-up on while at high school – I’ve recommended a few in the article. But if you’re lucky, you might also be able to arrange a short work-experience or summer internship in a research lab in Australia that is involved in astrobiology. Try getting in touch with the Australian Centre for Astrobiology for advice

      • Liam Arbuckle

        Hi Lewis, thx so much! I just completed the astrobiology MOOC on Coursera and it was so fun.

          • Liam Arbuckle

            I am currently doing the CREST awards in highschool and I’m doing a topic on astrobiology. Any other books (fiction included) that are worth reading plz tell me about them. And yes, I have already purchased the books at the title. #LEWISDARTNELL4PRESIDENT (or at least of astrobiology) 🙂

          • lewis

            Aside from the popular science books recommended here, there are an awful lot of sci-fi novels which are related to astrobiology and aliens, yes. I loved Carl Sagan’s ‘Contact’, and I’m also a huge fan of Stephen Baxter, Ken MacLeod, and Alistair Reynolds.

  26. Kobe

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article I really appreciate it. I’m currently in my first year of A-Levels and so a lot of this information was really helpful to me. I’m very interested in the field of astro-biology. I used to want to be a doctor but I realised that isnt what captures my interest. Astro-biology on the other hand is a fascinating field of study and I’m really hoping to contribute as much as I can to it.

  27. Deepak Kapoor

    I am 21,I’ve just finished my final year exams of masters in microbiology and waiting for result. Sir, what should I do now to get admitted in astrobiology…
    If I go for p.hd in environmental microbiology….or molecular microbiology… Which one will help me to get my Aim…

  28. Dimendra Liyanage

    Sir I would like to know whether a Bsc degree in Applied Biology is eligible to continue higher studies on Biological sciences specially Astrobiology.I’m very much interested in those fields.Would like to know whether there are significant PhD programmes on Astrobiology?

  29. Akash

    Thank you very much sir I did my bachelor I pharmacy and then I came abroad for master in molecular biology and biotechnology can you tell me can involved in astrobiology field

  30. Anurag

    Hi sir. I am from India. I have completed my +2 this year ..i am very intersted in biology and universe ..currently im going to canada for my course medical office adminstration..but i am very much intersted in astrobiology..Is there any way i can do astrobiology after completion of this course or if yes than by which university ??

    I will love to hear your recommedations


  31. Koushambi Chatterjee

    I have completed my 12th standard. I wish to be an astrobiologist in future. And I want to do engineering. So can I study with astrobiology after completing B.Tech? Which branch in engineering will be more applicable to have a degree in astrobiology then? Can I take Biotechnology or Computer Science as my stream?
    I will be really grateful if you answer my question kindly. I thank you.

    • lewis

      Engineering is indeed very important for space missions and probe design. You should ask your course tutors what modules would be most relevant here

  32. Abhay Patel

    Sir, i study in 12th science in india and i am very much interested in astrobiology, so sir please tell me what % are required to do course of astrobiology??

  33. Federico

    Thank you a lot sr.
    This is a great kick-starter article for any instered on astrobiology or biology student as me.
    I know there are some telescope on Chile so I’m gonna investigate a bit.
    Kind regards from Argentina!

  34. Pankaj

    Hello Sir
    Thank you for this useful article.
    I am in 11th class now….i want to become astrobiologist…..what is the first thing i shud do after completing my school…
    i m confused please help.

    Thank You

  35. Nikhil Ghatnekar

    Thanks a Lot for the article. I have few questions sir,
    I am very good in biology and chemistry but lack in Maths and Physics( Numerical part of it) So initially I had gave up on my idea of becoming an astrobiologist. But as you mentioned that a Masters degree from any Science Course is all right, what should I do if I complete a Masters in Biology to pursue astrobiology?
    Also, how can I work at NASA as an astrobiologist?

    • lewis

      Yes, I got into astrobiology from a biology background. You don’t necessarily need strong numerical skills, as might be more important in astrophysics, for example. After Masters level you would need to find a PhD position in a university research group in a field that interests you, and this could be relevant to astrobiology

  36. Shivani

    Hello sir
    I would like to know the difference between the fields of space medicine and astrobiology how can one pursue these courses after MBBS degree .

    • lewis

      Space medicine is all about ensuring the health of astronauts before, during, and after their flight. Astrobiology is about the search for life on planets and moons beyond the Earth.

  37. Krupal Bundela

    Thank you for the information sir.
    I am currently pursuing a degree course in bachelor of pharmacy(B.Pharm).And, i wish to get involved into astrobiology in any foreign country where opportunity is available.So, i request you to please guide me for further studies which universities would i be eligible to get a course study on astrobiology.

  38. Freya

    Hi there, thank you for your article. I am choosing my A Levels at the moment and was wondering if you could point me in the right direction about what to take if I am interested in astrobiology/planetary science? I am thinking about taking Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Geography – sadly no Physics. A reply would be greatly appreciated!

    • lewis

      Hi Freya, I got into astrobiology with A-levels in Bio,Chem,Phys and Maths, and then a degree in Biological Sciences. But I know lots of astrobiologists who got into it from a geology or chemistry degree, and so that might be a good route for you too.

  39. Pankaj

    Hello Sir,
    I want to know; is there any good university or collage in India for Astrobiology or i have go abroad for studies. Because I am interested in Astrobiology but I don’t want to go abroad.

    Thank You Sir

  40. Komal gaikwad

    Sir I have completed my Masters degree in zoology ( oceanography ) and am working as biology professor and I have a hardcore interest in astrobiology after reading the details above am truly inspired to learn astrobiology.
    Thanks for compiling the information for everyone of us 🙂

  41. Rosalia

    Hi Lewis, Thanks for giving me a little bit of renewed hope! Always fascinated by the ‘Astros’, I studied first Astronomy and Space (UK)and that is when I found my passion for Astrobiology, so I went on to study another undergraduate degree in Microbiology,(UK) hoping to make an “Astrobiology” qualification from Astronomy and Microbiology! For 3 years now I have been trying to find a PhD to continue research and “get into Astrobiology”. I have become quite disheartened since then but your article, although I know I’m late in finding it, has renewed my determination! Any practical advice as how to go about finding a PhD in Extremophiles or a related theme? I am able to relocate absolutely anywhere to continue my studies. Any thoughts at all would be greatly appreciated.
    Kind regards and congratulations on a wonderful trajectory in your profession.


    sir, i have just completed my UG degree in microbiology. I want to do my PG as astrobiology, is their any chances

  43. vishal

    I am student with 80% marks in career . now I am studying b pharmacy . can I go for space research after . please reply me through it or through my email

  44. Kirsten

    So many book reviews, thank you – but is there any there I can buy for my 12 year old son who dreams of becoming an astrobiologist ? I’m looking for something that will teach him some science but inspire him too. Any advice welcome.

  45. Israt

    Hello Sir! Your article was very helpful. I am currently in the final year of my Biochemistry major, India. I want to pursue my higher studies in Astrobiology. There are no masters courses in astrobiology in India as of now and i can’t do my masters abroad due to family constraints. Which subject should I chose in masters for landing up in Astrobiology field? Should I opt for Life Sciences or Biotechnology or Biochemistry?

  46. Jyotsna rana

    helo sir. i just hve a simple question that does the the astrobiologists travel to space as i am alot more intrested in space travelling?

    • lewis

      Astrobiologists study the possibilities of life beyond the earth; astronauts travel into space. However, perhaps the first crewed missions to Mars will include astrobiologists….

  47. asang cj

    Physics…the sheer size of our universe is so huge, the speed limit of light governs how fast any probe can travel to other worlds to detect life elsewhere..
    Geology…the soil on Mars is mostly iron..plants can’t grow on that..(or could it?)
    Chemistry…Luckily, new findings confirm the presence of intermittent flow of H2O on polar regions of Mars..What’s next?…Life (biology)?? 🙂
    Math…it’s simply the language of the whole universe (or perhaps other universes??) – many-world theory

    I’m currently pursuing STPM (A-level-equivalent) in Malaysia as a private candidate (since I’m too old to go back to formal school), taking all these four fun-to-learn subjects. Hopefully after this I can pursue my studies in uni to do research in astrobiology. Thanks Mr Lewis for the inspiration. 🙂

  48. Noya giri

    sir iam from india and im in 12th grade
    im in the medical stream( i dont have maths)
    can i do astrobiology? if yes then how? nd what are the criterion? what will be the steps…i mean can u plz temme in which subject i should do graduation, masters etc?
    please kindly tell me the whole procedure.
    it will be very greatful of you ^_^

    • lewis

      Hi Noya, you can get into astrobiology from pretty much any science field. Medicine doesn’t directly overlap, but there are jobs in space medicine and astronaut health, or you could transfer your skills into astrobiology

  49. Salar

    Thanks a lot for helpful guidance, I am a high school Student and want to study in Medical Science and after get that’s degree come to USA and study Astrobiology.
    Can I become an astrobiologist by this way ?
    please help me….

  50. Dhanush

    Sir I am dhanush and i am in 12th grade (science stream with maths).What first degrees can i take to become an astrobiologist

    • lewis

      As I explain in the article, you can get into astrobiology with a degree in pretty much any science: biology, geology, physics and astronomy, chemistry

  51. muskan

    Hi sir, the article is really very helpful. I’m in high school and will be in 11th grade next year. I’m not as much interested in maths as I am in physics, biology and chemistry. So just wanted to ask you whether not taking up maths in class 11th will affect my career in astrobiology in particular? If yes, then to how much extent?

    • lewis

      While not always absolutely essentially, maths is certainly helpful in pursuing science subjects, and particularly physics. It depends on how numerical you want your career to be, but you won’t necessarily be held back without it

  52. Sage

    Hello Dr. Dartnell,

    I am currently an MSc student and my area of expertise is Structural Biology (I have a BSc in Biology). I have always been attracted by Astrobiology and lately I’ve been thinking about changing field after my masters degree. I believe it is not an impossible thing with my background, however i’m confused about my next steps. What do you think would be the best area to study on my PhD in order to move towards this way?

    Thank you in advance,

    • lewis

      Hi Sage, no that’s certainly not an impossible move! Structural Biology has strong links to biosignaures and the signs of life that we would look for on other planets and moons. Look for labs that do this sort of research and ask about PhD opportunities

    • lewis

      Hi Prinka, I don’t know what +2 is, but as the article explains, you can get into astrobiology from a background in pretty much any science field


    thank you very much .i was in a big trouble before i read this document because i could not understand what should i do after a/l.


    i want to be an astrobiologist when i was i have finished my o/ i have selected science scheme for a/l(biology,physics,chemistry).should i select maths sheme to achieve my goal.(chemistry,combined maths,physics)please give me an answer.

    • lewis

      Maths is certainly helpful in science (and in particular physics) for analysing your results, for example, but it is not a strict prerequisite for astrobiology

  55. Donny

    hi Lewis I have this huge project called I-search and so then I chose are we alone in the universe so i have to interview two people so i was wondering if i could interview you as one of my interviewees so i was wonder if you could answer back whether saying yes or no because i was reading your article and it looks like you are pretty well educated on the topic so please respond thank you

  56. Akshay Cygnus

    Hi, sir i am going to finish my 12th grade .( biology with maths).is there any university’s offering astrobiology course in southIndia

    • lewis

      I’m afraid I don’t know about astrobiology courses in all the countries of the world. You would need to research what courses are offered in your own area. I would suspect that you won’t find a full undergraduate degree in astrobiology, but it might be included as a single module within a degree.

    • Sania

      Hello akshay, I’m Sania and I’m in class 11 right now, I feel you must have passed 12 th by now. So did you find any colleges offering astrobiology courses in South India?

  57. Royani Saha

    Hi Sir,
    I have read your articles about astrobiology. specifically I have few qusetions. I completed my schooling with 88% in science group as above you have said that medical students too can take, but is there any undergraduate course for space medicine? or rather to apply gaining a graduate degree?

    • lewis

      There are certainly Masters courses in space medicine – I know that Kings College London offers MSc in Space Physiology & Health. But I don’t know about undergraduate courses in space medicine. Have you tried Googling? I would suspect that you’d need to take an undergraduate degree in medicine first, and then specialise into space medicine.

  58. Ally

    Hi, I am currently doing an undergraduate course in medicine but I have always wanted to explore and know more about the universe. I have always been fascinated by space exploration.I know I can get into space medicine but would that be exciting? I would love to pursue astrobiology but is there a future in the field? I am interested but I am also afraid. What should I do??

    • lewis

      Whether you find a particular field of research or career exciting is more down to you, to be honest Ally. Astrobiology is a rapidly growing field of science, e.g. in terms of extremophiles research and more and more exploration missions are being launched through the solar system by ESA and NASA, as well as other space agencies.

    • lewis

      Astrobiology is a very ‘interdisciplinary’ field and sits as the Venn diagram overlap in the middle of many different kinds of science: microbiology and extremophiles, biochemistry and the origins of life, geology, physics, astronomy, robotics

        • lewis

          Yes, there are links from extremophiles and their enzymes to biotechnology. One good example is the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which uses an enzyme called Taq polymerase that still works at very high temperatures, as it comes from the thermophile Thermus aquaticus isolated from hot springs and hydrothermal vents.

  59. palak

    hello sir
    I am from india. I am in 10th class . I am intrested in astrobiology ,so which subjects i should prefer? I also want to know is there a good future in astrobiology in india??

  60. Haidar

    Hello sir

    What if I do MBBS ( bachelor in medicine ) n then masters in cardiology . Will there be any way to become an astrobiologist? I m asking about astrobiologist not space medicine related. Do reply me sir

    • lewis

      A Bachelors in Medicine and then a Masters in cardiology is not a direct route into astrobiology, but you can always change careers later if that’s what you decide you want to do.

    • lewis

      There is no such thing as an average monthly salary for an astrobiologist, just as there is no such thing as the average monthly salary for an accountant or a computer programmer or a designer — it depends enormously on where in the world you are, who you work for, what level you are at, etc. What I would say, though, Salman, is that if you’re concerned about how much money you will earn, a career in academia is perhaps not for you…

  61. Soyam

    Sir I m lad of 18 nearly completing my 12 th from the nepal . N I wanna be an astrobiologist but as per country there is no any institution or university providing education for me . So please sir help me to get to my aim n dream .
    Is there any way or somehow like scholarship type for forgein student( Nepalese) directly or through embassy of uk or us?

    • lewis

      Hi Soyam, I’m afraid that I don’t personally know of any scholarship schemes for foreign students coming to the UK or US. You could try googling for opportunities. Good luck!

  62. DrRJones

    Dear Lewis Dartnell,
    I recently gained a doctorate in extremophile microbiology, looking to move into astrobiology. Would you mind if I emailed you for some advice?

  63. Akshay Cygnus

    sir what are the different field’s under biology in astrobiology, and I am from a poor background is it correct to choose astrobiology.

    • lewis

      Astrobiology encompasses fields like microbiology, biochemistry and molecular biology. It is very much your decision as to whether you want to pursue work in the field of astrobiology.

  64. Anna

    Hi Lewis,
    Thank you for a great read! I’m currently in my 2nd year of Biology at Imperial College London, and will be based here over summer. Where would you recommend applying to for an internship/work experience in an astrobiology related field? The more I read about this area of research, the more exciting it seems – it would be great to find out more, perhaps in a lab-based setting.

    • lewis

      Hi Anna,
      Imperial does have an astrobiology-related research lab, with Zita Martins and Mark Sephton working on organic molecules in meteorites and comets, and thus how we could detect such chemistry on Mars. Look them up and get in touch. Nick Lane at UCL may also be able to accommodate a summer student on his origins of life project. L

  65. Sarah

    I have been following this article for awhile, and a year later I am now at the stage where I have to decide my course at university. Which is a better route into astrobiology, biochemistry or chemistry? Do they lead into different aspects of astrobiology?

    I am able to take four extra modules at university, which ones would you recommend? I fear that if I choose biochemistry then I will need to take more chemistry courses and that if I take chemistry then I won’t be doing enough biology, but I also want to be well rounded as (like your article said) it is a multi disciplinary field.

    I need to pick between the two asap but am drowning in vague research.. I would really appreciate your help.
    Thank you,

    • lewis

      Hi Sarah,
      Both biology and biochemistry are equally valid routes into astrobiology. I came from a straight Biological Sciences background, and I have lots of colleagues who did biochemistry, or even straight chemistry. At the stage of an undergraduate degree it doesn’t really matter, to be honest. You’ll be able to specialise in astrobiology, if you still want to, further down the line. Chemistry, focusing on organic chemistry, is very useful for studying the origins of life, whereas biochemistry links more into extremophiles and different forms of metabolism of terrestrial life.

  66. Pankaj

    I am in 12th class

    i want to become astrophysicist

    is it possible to become astrophysicist without taking mathematics

    • lewis

      You’re asking about astrophysics on a page discussing astrobiology, but I would think that mathematics is pretty important for astrophysics

  67. shamodi

    I am learning on grade 12 .I have selected biology chemistry physics.I want to study astrobiology once I enter to the university.have I chosen the right path to become an astrobilogist.

  68. krutarth patel

    Dear sir , I have recently completed my 12th science in biology group with flying colours.I have got 90 % marks in biology and physics too. I want to go in astrobiology carrier because I am not eligible for astrophysics because of mathematics. Which program of undergraduate should I go first? Please tell me the pathway for become astrobiologist.

    • lewis

      Congratulations on your results Krutarth! As I explain in the article, a degree in pretty much any science subject will set you up for moving into astrobiology if that’s what you want to do: biology, chemistry or physics.

      • krutarth patel

        if i do biotechnology advance 3 years course is it possible after to do astrobiology?

  69. anu

    To become an astrobiologist has been a dream since my childhood and now i am doing A levels (physics,chemistry,biology,mathematics).I just wanted to know which subject should i be taking after my A levels and which subject i should be currently focusing on currently in order to become a successful astrobiologist . Similarly, i would also like to know where are the good centres in order to pursue my dream.I would be really greatfull to you..

    • lewis

      I did the same A-levels as you, and then read Biology at university. As the article explains, you can pretty much take any science subject to get involved in astrobiology down the line.

      • anu

        Thanks sir!
        Then after doing biology in bachelors, i can seek for astrobiology in masters or i should i do bachelors in astrobiology, which one do u think would be more effective for my furture and career….

  70. Kinjal

    Hello sir…I have completed my bachelor of dentistry.but I want to be astrobiologist. For that which course i should join?

  71. shamodi

    Sir I am very thankful to you for giving me a good I am studying in bio science scheme to achieve my goal ( an astrobiologist)thank you very much again

    • lewis

      Yes, you’d need to approach research groups in the area you are interested in and enquire about PhD opportunities

  72. Akshay

    I currently am a student of Mumbai University, studying Electronics Engineering. I just finished my 3rd Year Exams, and will now be in my final (senior) year in the coming weeks.
    I want to pursue a career in Biology Research. I’m interested in studying Molecular and Cellular Biology for Masters’ Degree.
    I have trouble shifting from Engineering to Biology.
    My goal is to be an Astrobiologist, and getting a masters’ degree in Molecular Biology will get me closer to my dream goal.
    Can you please guide me to how can I shift from Engineering to Biology?
    Should I apply for a correspondence course for Biology to make the transition simpler?
    I’m also preparing for GRE Exam, should I also appear for subject specific GRE (for Biology)?
    Thank you for bearing with me.
    Have a good day.

    • lewis

      Hi Akshay, sure, you could get into astrobiology from a masters degree in Mol Biol, but also there’s lots of overlap from electronics engineering into astrobiology already. All of the scientific instruments placed on space probes, including e.g. Mars rovers, are designed and built by electrical engineers, so that’s something you could get into

  73. Brian

    Hi, I am only in high school, however I have always been extremely interested in the topic of exoplanets in particular. I know I’m a little late to this party but I was wondering if you could tell me the program I should start out with (if there is a specific one) and where I would go from there. Also one more thing, I love to know if there are any Astrologists that also travel to space, or if there would be opportunity for this in the near future. Thanks.

    • Brian

      Hi again, I forgot to mention that ontop of loving the study and discovering/finding of exo planets I am equally interested in actually being a part of the missions to send machinery manned or unmanned to different objects in space and hope to one day be a part of them (the missions that is), whether I’m analyzing results or playing a more pivotal role.

      • lewis

        You can get into more that side of things with a degree with something like space engineering, which will train you in how to design and build space probes

    • lewis

      Hi Brian,
      if you want to get involved in exoplanets research later, finding a degree at a good university in something like physics or astronomy would be a good start. As for the selection criteria for astronauts, you would need to check the NASA website

  74. Keerthana

    Hi Sir,
    I am Keerthana and I am in 11th grade. I just developed an interest in astrobiology but I haven’t taken Maths as the main subject now..I am studying science and computers instead. I just wanna know whether that would be problem in future and would computers help me. I am pretty good at science and I was the school topper in environmental applications. Thank you 🙂

  75. hitesh

    Hey sir,
    I’m Pursuing in biotechnology,I’m a 3rd year student and i’m also studying astrobiology from coursera and enjoying the course. Sir, I want to ask that am i eligible for post graduation in astrobiology and is there a scope of astrobiology. Sir I’m also good with computers and most of the things is done with computers so is there any option to get an astrobiologist job who can work with computers and sir how i get this job sir please guide me a path so i can stay focused and can work hard on a particular thing.
    thank you

    • lewis

      To get into graduate studies in astrobiology (i.e. a PhD) you would need to find a lab doing astrobiology-related research that interests you and enquire about opportunities and funding for a PhD. I use a lot of computers in my astrobiology research, for data analysis and radiation modelling, so you can certainly use your computer skills in the field.

  76. umeda

    I have selected chemistry physics and biology for al.many people say astrobiology a maths subject and I should select maths scheme to learn astrobiology at the it it a requirement to learn astrobiology.can not I be a astrobiology by selecting Bio science scheme.

    • lewis

      I took maths (as well as the three sciences) at A-level and have found it to be generally very useful for science research, but mathematics is not a formal requirement for getting into astrobiology. If you go down the microbiology route into astrobiology, you’ll probably be ok. Depending on the university, you may be able to take an astrobiology module/course as part of a biological degree.

  77. nadil

    Sir I”m doing biology,chemistry and agriculture for my A/Ls so, can i study astrobiology for my higher education?

    • lewis

      Hi Nadil, there aren’t really complete astrobiology degrees available as an undergraduate, but you might find that a university offers a module in life beyond Earth as part of a degree in biology, biochemistry, geology or physics and astronomy. The normal entry point into astrobiology is for Masters or certainly PhD research.

    • lewis

      If you wanted to get into astrobiology research, then science A-levels and a relevant degree would be prerequisites, yes

  78. Maddie

    Your lecture at Bluedot Festival was inspiring! I found you made the subject seem accessible and its so nice that you take the time to reply to the comments here. I am completely fascinated and excited by the future of astrobiology and would love to pursue a career in it, is it very competitive?

    • lewis

      Hi Maddie, I’m so glad to hear you found the talk interesting — thanks for letting me know! As the blogpost describes, you can get into astrobiology research through a PhD, from pretty much any scientific background. As a field, it is still relatively small, but no more competitive than other areas of research

    • lewis

      I’m afraid that I don’t know of any complete degrees in astrobiology, but as I say in the article, many degrees in geology, planetary sciences, microbiology, physics and astronomy, offer modules in topics like extremophiles, extrasolar planets, and astrobiology.

  79. T.Senerath

    I’m currently studying for my AS level examination and my subjects are Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and Core maths with statistics. Are these subjects okay if i want to study astrobiology in the future? and also how can i move in from A levels straight to astrobiology?

    • lewis

      Yes, absolutely, those subjects are perfect! I studied the same A-levels as you (but swapping Psychology for Physics). But generally for science research you need to study for a degree at university after finishing your A-levels at school.

  80. T.Senerath

    I am a Sri Lankan so there aren’t that many astrobiology courses in my country! Although i could study something like natural sciences or planetary sciences here. Would that be okay? and also is geology needed for A-levels or is it fine if i had a A-pass for O/L geography?

    • lewis

      A degree in natural sciences or planetary sciences would both put you in a good position for a PhD in astrobiology. No particular A-level is a prerequisite for researching in astrobiology down the line

  81. James

    Hi Lewis,
    I study A Level Biology, Chemistry and Maths in the UK and will shortly be applying to university here. I am considering either a straight biology/biochem degree or natural sciences, but I am not sure which to choose. Would natural sciences be too broad a background to go into the field, compared to biology which might allow me to research something more specific, such as extremophiles? Conversely, would the broad basis and interdisciplinary nature of natural sciences be more of an asset than pure biology?
    Any advice would be appreciated,
    Thanks, James

    • lewis

      Hi James, to be honest I don’t think it matters enormously with respect to your later options for getting into as astrobiology PhD. I studied Biological Sciences, which was a pretty broad course, and I think you’re right that the interdisciplinary nature of natsci would put you in a good footing. On the other hand a biology or biochem degree would also put you in good stead. Ultimately I think you should choose whichever degree and university you think you will find most interesting/enjoyable and that you feel at home in

      • James

        Yeah I guess it really comes down to the course that I find most interesting; at the university that I feel most comfortable at, seeing as both options would be able to lead me in a similar direction. I’ve almost finished Life in the Universe by the way, which has been great!
        Thanks for the response, James

  82. Faezeh

    Hi Sir,
    Although it seems impossible alittle,but I want to know if there is a field of study with which I can work with both archeologists and astronomers,astronauts or astrobiologists.Is there any link between them?
    I need your recommendation and would be grateful if I get your reply.
    Thank you very much <3

  83. steve harvey

    Thank you for this great article.
    I took my bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and my master degree in Ecology if i took my phd in Astrobiology is there any chance that i would work with NASA? Please accept my sincerly thank.

    • lewis

      Hi Steve, yes, gaining a PhD in astrobiology would be an excellent way to start a career in this area of science, and potentially applying for research positions with members of the Nasa Astrobiology Institute

  84. Ketaki

    Hello Sir, I’m from India, and I’m currently doing my Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology. Along with Biotech, we’re also supposed to study Chemistry and Botany/Zoology.
    I was told that by choosing botany, my chances of doing Astrobiology were reduced substantially, and would probably be shifted towards agricultural development instead. So should I switch to Zoology instead?

    • lewis

      I studied Zoology as part of my Biological Sciences degree, and got into astrobiology from there. But I don’t think that minoring in Botany would necessarily close any doors for you

  85. sehaj

    Hello Lewis l want to become an astrobiologist so what should I do first which subject helps me more tbecause I am in +2so please give me some direction

  86. Pingback: Space Professions » Job Profile: Astrobiologist

    I wanted to ask about astrobiology courses, institutions, fee and much more in India or somewhere else in central or
    south Asia.
    thank you.

  88. pat nelly

    hey to become an aterbiology and space explorer it seems like there should be a lot of work involved and the training should begin at under grad. do you have to do a masters in your chosen degree. can you get into asteriobiology with a level 7 degree

  89. Tia

    Sir I am Tia from India. I am very much interested in astrobiology. I find the subject interesting and fascinating . I always had a dream to become a part of NASA .Can you please tell me that what can I do to join NAI in USA after my completion of my school.

  90. Nisarg

    i am Nisarg from India ,studying in 12th science this year . I am interested to become astrobiologist but the real confusion is how to become & what are career pathways to achieve it ? I took physics, chemistry & biology this year ….. is maths also important ? I’ve decided to join medicine college next year.Can i join astrobiology after completing MBBS or MD?
    Or should i gain PhD in biology from university?

    • lewis

      As explained in the article, there are many routes into astrobiology for different scientific backgrounds. An MD degree is not directly relevant to research in astrobiology, but you can train as a microbiologist, for example

  91. Elisa

    Hello Lewis!

    Thank you for this great article! I’m from Brazil and I’m currently working with plants, more specifically with medicinal plants in my Master research but my dream was always to work in the field of astrobiology. Do you know anyone who works with plants in the area of astrobiology that I could possibly work with in my Doctoral? Do you think I have a chance to enter the field even if I work with plants or should I change my area completely?

    Thank you very much!

    • lewis

      Hi Elisa,
      Plant research and botany isn’t really directly involved in astrobiology itself, but there’s a lot of interest in research on which crop plants would be best suited to be grown in greenhouses on Mars for supporting a human base in the future. Your best bet would be to do searches on news sites for reports on which researchers have been involved in this sort of work, then look up some of their research papers if you can, to get a feel what what they do in their labs, and then get in touch to enquire about any openings for a PhD position

  92. Priya

    Hello, I have read the article above. Currently I’m doing my B. Sc in Microbiology. Can u please tell me how can I get into the field of astrobiology after my bachelors?

  93. Vidhatri Thakkar

    My aim is to become an astrobiologist and work in NASA. Right now I’m in 12th standard, studying (physics, chemistry, biology) I’m weak at maths so can u suggest an undergraduate degree for me which will be helpful for me to get in astrobiology. This has been my dream since I was a kid, and can u suggest some ways to get in NASA?

    I would be really grateful if you reply to my answer
    Thank you Sir, for the wonderful article.

    • lewis

      As the article explains, you can take pretty much any science degree at university to then later move into astrobiology – biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, geology, planetary sciences. After university you will need to apply for PhD research positions – NASA Ames does a lot of astrobiology research, so look into that

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