Astrobiology at a glance
What is Astrobiology?
"Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life on Earth and in the Universe."
In 1995 we witnessed the discovery of the first exoplanet around a solar-type star, 51 Pegasi b. Since then, the Astrobiology community started to thrive and the understanding that life co-evolves with the environment, increased the need of embracing research areas that were not combined in the past, turning into (maybe the most) multi-disciplinary field. Therefore, what started as a shy marriage between Astronomy and Biology now includes researchers from Geology, Ecology, Oceanography, Chemistry, Paleontology, Meteorology, Social Sciences, Engineering, Physics, Medicine and more.
Astrobiologists pursue to answer the most fundamental questions of humanity, such as "Where did we come from?" and "Are we alone in the Universe?".
If after reading our description and Blumberg's definition you think that your research could contemplate these topics at any level, we are sorry to tell you, but you are an Astrobiologist! :)
Who and Where?
black - major institutes and organizations, blue - Earth Sciences, yellow - Astronomy, green - Biology,
red - Chemistry, purple - Oceanography, gray - Aerospace & Engineering
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Astrobiology Road Trip
There is no clear path to become an astrobiologist... Let us show you our own paths to give you an idea:
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I fell in love with Astronomy since the first day that I looked up and noticed the stars and planets, but never thought of making a career out of it because it felt so distant, but in the last year of high school, I had the most amazing biology teacher that made me enjoy Biology and believe that I could be a scientist. I was conflicted about which path to take, to be an astronomer or a biologist, until the day that I read the term 'Astrobiology' and I noticed that actually I had a third possible path, a mix of both of them. So, I decided to study astronomy and my undergraduate research was in Stellar Astrophysics, studying red-dwarf stars. Now I am a PhD student and, since my Master's, I work with chemical abundances of CHNOPS (main components of life on Earth) in solar-type stars.
Fatima Li Hau
Since I can remember I have felt passionate about space and the mistery of the origin of life. In high school I found out about Astrobiology, specifically extremophiles, during a science communication talk at my alma mater. Since then, extremophiles and their amazing physiologies have fascinated me. This planted the seeds of my main research question: How far can life go? In order to study extremophiles, I wanted to go directly into a Microbiology degree, unavailable in Mexico at the time. Instead, I studied Biology (UNAM, Mexico) and chose my thesis laboratory and courses accordingly. That experience is now extremely valuable to me, as it allowed me to have a broad idea of life on Earth. For my master's degree I was eager to dive deeper into extremophile studies and found the research topics of ELSI (Earth-Life Science Institute) to be both challenging and interesting. I was awarded the Monbukagakusho Scholarship from the Japanese government and came to Tokyo, where I am currently pursuing my PhD as well as having fun with microbes and hot springs.
I became interested in astrobiology in high school, but could not find a straightforward way to become an astrobiologist, since there was no undergraduate program for it. In my undergraduate I studied Earth and Space Science (a mixture of geoscience, astronomy and oceanography) and then moved on to an MSc program in Marine Microbiology (both in Bremen, Germany). I then joined the Earth-Life Science Institute (Tokyo, Japan) for a combined MSc/PhD through the department of Chemical Science and Engineering, though my research here is focused on microbial physiology and bioinformatics.
During my undergraduate years, I developed an appreciation on the co-evolution of Earth and life throughout geological history after taking several courses on paleontology and evolutionary biology in Turkey. Thinking about life in the geological time perspective allowed me to think critically about the famous questions that humans have been asking for centuries: “How did life start on our planet and in what conditions?” and “Is life special only to Earth or can it be found somewhere else?”. Accordingly, I met with a scientific research discipline known as “Astrobiology”, which is in the core of those questions. After having my BSc in Geology, my passion for astrobiology continuously increased, and I decided to conduct research on how geochemistry shapes the environment for life. Accordingly I got my MSc degree in Oceanography from METU, Turkey (with a focus on hydrothermal fluid geochemistry) and I am now a PhD student in the field of aqueous geochemistry at Univeristy of Calgary, Canada.