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Astrochemistry: Origins of Life in Space

Remarkable advancements in experimental techniques, development of observational telescopes, and powerful computer algorithms are making the detection of complex molecules in space possible for the first time in human history. Through this cutting-edge science, we are able to better understand the origins of the molecular organic components of life. The chemical elements first produced by nucleosynthesis at the core of stars are subsequently ejected out into the interstellar medium, are physically and chemically processed by the extreme conditions in space over millions of years, and are deposited on to the surfaces of primordial planets, ultimately becoming the building blocks of life.

In this course, we will explore how molecular evolution occurs within various extreme astrochemical environments, such as the interstellar medium, the molecular clouds, the star-forming regions, and the planetary bodies. We will also examine the exotic chemistry occurring in the atmospheres and on the surfaces of planets, satellites, and other solar system bodies, e.g. comets and meteorites, that may harbor prebiotic molecules. We will discuss how scientists today study and detect organic molecules relevant to biology in space, and explore their implications for life on other planets.

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Session Two
Course is Full
at the time of application
on the first day of session
Scheduled Class Time*
08:00 AM - 11:00 AM (PDT)

*The course will meet for two hours daily (Monday–Friday) for a live class during this window of time. The exact time will be set closer to the program start. In addition to the live meeting times, students will engage in out-of-class learning assignments such as assigned readings, group work, pre-recorded online lectures, and more.


Completion of high school courses in physics and chemistry.