Astrobiology, B.S.

Astrobiology, B.S.

What is an astrobiology degree?

Astrobiology BS

To our knowledge, Florida Tech’s astrobiology degree program is the first and only undergraduate astrobiology program in the country. If you’re interested in the potential for life on other planets, studying the theory of abiogenesis is key.

Students in the astrobiology program receive a broad education in areas that include planetary science, extrasolar planets, and the origin of life. At the same time, students take a solid core of mathematics, physics, and biology courses, allowing them to pursue a wide range of interests.

Astrobiology degree graduates are ready for graduate studies in astrophysics, planetary science, or biology, as well as careers in the aerospace or biotech-related industries. Whether you want to study the effects of space travel on humans, discover past or present microbial life on Mars, or help develop ways to sustain life on the moon, you will be well prepared with an astrobiology degree from Florida Tech. Here, you'll develop a strong background in physics and biology and get hands-on experience with space science technologies.

Gain Practical Experience

The faculty advisor to Astrobiology program majors is a former astronaut who conducted astronomy research in two space shuttle missions. As a student in the program, your first year includes a first-year seminar that provides an excellent introduction to the career options and research areas open to students majoring in astrobiology.

Florida Tech professors encourage all students seeking an astrobiology degree to become involved in activities and research projects for immediate immersion in "real science," not just text learning. Students typically join a research group early in their study at Florida Tech and get experience in hands-on, high-caliber research. You can also undertake exciting collaborative research with a peer or professor, or work independently in a topic of your choosing. As a result, you get practical experience, an enhanced job search portfolio, and the perfect preparation for graduate and professional school or employment.

Earn an Advanced Degree

After receiving their astrobiology degree, many of our students go on to master's and doctoral programs at Florida Tech and other prestigious universities, including Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, and Yale.

Why pursue an astrobiology degree at Florida Tech?

Because Florida Tech has the first and only undergraduate astrobiology program in the country, it is the premier university for students interested in the space sciences. You can search for evidence of abiogenesis, or get involved in projects at the NASA Space Life Sciences Lab.

 Small Class Sizes and Low Student-to-Faculty Ratio

The academic environment in the College of Engineering is particularly conducive to personalized one-on-one attention from professors. With its small class sizes (usually fewer than 25 students per class), Florida Tech boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio while providing a high-quality curriculum. Working alongside professors in internships and research also gives students a more robust learning experience.

Work with Internationally Recognized Faculty

Faculty members at Florida Tech are top researchers in their fields and are committed to the success of our students. The advisor to the astrobiology program is a former astronaut who conducted astronomy research in two shuttle missions. Our physics and space sciences professors include a TED Global Fellow and an NSF Career Award-winner.

 High-Tech Laboratories and Facilities

Students have access to the Ortega 0.8-m telescope, one of the largest research telescopes in the Southeast, allowing students to observe extrasolar planets and other cosmic phenomena. Faculty and students use this telescope as their main training and research instrument, but also have easy access to the Southeastern Association for Astronomy (SARA) 0.9-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. Additional facilities available for students at this astrobiology university include:

  • The Space Life Sciences Laboratory at NASA Kennedy Space Center.
  • Laboratories in the Olin Physical Sciences building—a teaching and research laboratory that includes an aquaculture facility, climate change institute, and the offices and research labs of the faculty. It houses the Chemistry department, state-of-the-art instrumentation, and rooms for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometers, photochemistry, glass-blowing, and computational chemistry.
  • The Harris Center for Science and Engineering serves the research needs of our students and includes eight teaching labs, twelve modern research labs, a sixteen-workstation computer facility, an electron microscope suite, and a 2,500-square-foot indoor aquaculture facility, most of which is wet laboratory space.

Great Florida Location in the Heart of the World’s Gateway to Space Exploration

Florida Tech is the perfect place for an astrobiology university. The 130-acre campus is located on the Space Coast (so named because of the presence of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral just north of us). In addition to the many academic benefits our students gain at Florida Tech, the university also has connections to world-leading aerospace companies such as Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and Harris Corporation. These relationships enable our students to form valuable connections that lead to future career opportunities.

The area has the fifth largest high-tech workforce in the country, with more than 5,000 high-tech corporations and government and military organizations located nearby. This workforce also provides a variety of internship and employment opportunities.

Florida Tech is just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River Lagoon, 72 miles of beautiful beaches, and a short trip to the Florida Keys or the Orlando theme parks. We also have a rich campus life that includes intramural and collegiate sports, clubs, and social activities.

Build Lasting Professional Relationships through Campus Organizations

Beyond the classroom, astrobiology majors build leadership and professional experience through exciting internships (see below) and participation in academic organizations like Sigma Pi Sigma (the national physics honor society), Beta Beta Beta (TriBeta, the national biological sciences honor society), Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, the Student Astronomical Society, the Society of Physics Students, and over 100 other student organizations. These clubs give students the chance to network with other people interested in space and the sciences, allowing for opportunities to make the connections that can help kick start an astrobiology career.

How will an astrobiology degree prepare me for the future?

Peerless Internship Opportunities

In preparation for an astrobiology career, Florida Tech students often take part in internships with local and national companies. Some of these companies include:

  • NASA
  • The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Sandia National Labs
  • The American Institute of Physics

These internship opportunities allow our students to gather the necessary experience to put them ahead of the competition when searching for an astrobiology career.

Florida Tech also hosts the SARA Research Experience for Undergraduates program, a summer internship program sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense.

Stunning Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Professors strongly encourage students to get actively involved in research by joining one of the department’s research groups. Currently our faculty is involved in observing and categorizing the properties of exoplanets, and is in the process of developing a multi-spectrum camera intended for use on the International Space Station. Astrobiology students involved in projects that require unique instrumentation have access to the Space Life Sciences Laboratory at Kennedy Space Center. In addition, they are frequently admitted to the NASA Space Academy and other similar programs.

Research activities include measuring the adhesion properties of dust grains to understand the important processes in the formation of plants, and the effects of cosmic radiation on the human body. Collaboration with faculty in the biology department involves studies on the effects of the space environment on long-term missions involving humans—especially important with the new focus on traveling to Mars. NASA’s Space Academy also frequently allows our astrobiology students to take part in exciting training and research. These types of hands-on experiences give students a real-world view of an astrobiology career.

What can you do with an astrobiology degree?

An astrobiology career gives you an opportunity to apply many areas of science to your job from astrophysics to biology, chemistry, astronomy, planetary science, and geology. An astrobiology career could have you studying the effects of space on human and animal life, categorizing the properties of exoplanets, or collecting ice core samples in Alaska.

NASA describes an astrobiology career as an interdisciplinary field that requires a comprehensive, integrated understanding of biological, planetary, and cosmic phenomena. Students who are interested in a high-tech career at space agencies, in research and development or in working for the federal government are the perfect candidates for an astrobiology career.

 Career Outlook

Employers who have recruited Florida Tech students with an astrobiology degree for internships and careers include:

  • Harris Corporation
  • Lockheed-Martin
  • Boeing
  • DRS Optronics
  • Kennedy Space Center
  • NASA
  • Goddard
  • The Space Telescopic Science Institute
  • Northrup Grumman
  • US Army
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
  • Museum of Natural History in New York City
  • Kitt Peak National Observatory

Individuals with biology and physics backgrounds will continue to be in demand in medicine, information technology, communications technology, semiconductor technology and other applied research-and-development fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in the aerospace industry will concentrate on national defense, raising fuel efficiency, and aircraft design and production, while astronomers will be needed for continued space research and innovative technologies such as scientific equipment and computer software development.

What would an astrobiology career or similar occupation look like? The Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides information about a multitude of jobs in the United States, including details about projected employment growth, median annual pay and specifics about what the job entails.

Career Options

Undergraduates and graduate students with a BS in Astrobiology can look forward to an astrobiology career in such fields as:

  • Astronomy
  • Geology
  • Space sciences research
  • Biomedical research
  • Environment research
  • Post-secondary teaching
  • University-based research

Graduate and Doctoral Programs

More than half of Florida Tech's astrobiology degree students attend graduate school. In addition to the master’s and doctoral programs at Florida Tech, recent astrobiology degree graduates have been accepted to graduate programs at such prestigious institutions as:

  • Auburn University
  • Caltech
  • Dartmouth University
  • Johns Hopkins
  • Georgia Tech
  • Ohio State University
  • Rice
  • SUNY Buffalo
  • SUNY Stony Brook
  • UCLA
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Florida
  • University of Texas
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Yale
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