2021 Astrobiology

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Academic unit or major
Graduate major in Life Science and Technology
Fujishima Kosuke  Matsuura Tomoaki  Mcglynn Shawn 
Class Format
Media-enhanced courses
Day/Period(Room No.)
Mon1-2()  Thr1-2()  
Course number
Academic year
Offered quarter
Syllabus updated
Lecture notes updated
Language used
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Course description and aims

Astrobiology is a relatively new interdisciplinary field named by NASA in the 1990s and defined as the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. The aim of this course is to acquire a wide range of knowledge and terminology related to astrobiology, and learn latest key topics in different research fields including astronomy, planetary science, geochemistry, environmental microbiology, molecular biology, and more.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Student learning outcomes

This lecture will provide students with a broad knowledge of astrobiology, technical terms, and the latest related papers. The goal is to provide you with a new perspective for your own research.


Chemical evolution, Habitability, Origins of life, Early earth environment, Biomarker, Isotope, DNA/RNA/protein/membrane, protocell, phylogenetic tree, molecular evolution, metabolism, Mars, Icy moon, exoplanet

Competencies that will be developed

Specialist skills Intercultural skills Communication skills Critical thinking skills Practical and/or problem-solving skills

Class flow

The lecture will be given in English using slides. Related materials will be uploaded before the lecture if needed.

Course schedule/Required learning

  Course schedule Required learning
Class 1 Introduction to Astrobiology learn about the history of astrobiology and its key research goals
Class 2 Planet formation and delivery of materials on Early earth Learn about the latest theory of planet formation and how water and other relevant materials for life were brought to Earth.
Class 3 Early earth condition Learn about the changes in atmospheric and oceanic components and elemental cycles in early Earth history.
Class 4 Ocean world in the solar system and habitability Learn about other planets that harbors/harbored ocean and its relevance to habitability
Class 5 Prebiotic chemistry on the origin of life Learn about various chemical evolution experiments leading to biologically relevant molecules.
Class 6 Catalytic reactions driven by mineral surfaces Understand the relationship and differences between various scientific reactions catalyzed by minerals and enzymatic reactions in living organisms.
Class 7 Compartmentalization and protocell Learn about non-biological compartmentalization phenomena such as phase separation and liposomes, and the chemical reactions that occur there.
Class 8 Life in extreme environments Learn about the dynamics and molecular mechanisms of organisms growing in extreme environments and gain insight into the boundaries of the biosphere.
Class 9 Biomarkers and paleontology: search for life on early earth Understanding of isotope fractionation mechanisms and analytical methods, and the resulting understanding of the dynamics of metabolism and other processes in past life
Class 10 Universal tree of life Unraveling the evolutionary lineage of life from the latest phylogenetic trees. It also touches on the origin of eukaryotes.
Class 11 Molecular mechanism of biological system Understand the central molecular mechanism that all life has in common (DNA to RNA to protein) and address its universality.
Class 12 Metabolism and energy for life The amount and type of energy required to drive living systems and how it is acquired will be explained using "metabolism" as the keyword.
Class 13 What is life? How to build a life Students will acquire knowledge related to artificial life that are being constructed using synthetic biology.
Class 14 Exoplanets and life signature Understand the picture of exoplanets obtained by space telescope observations and learn about the latest science for the search for signs of life.

Out-of-Class Study Time (Preparation and Review)

To enhance effective learning, students are encouraged to spend approximately 100 minutes preparing for class and another 100 minutes reviewing class content afterwards (including assignments) for each class.
They should do so by referring to textbooks and other course material.



Reference books, course materials, etc.

Astrobiology: Searching for the Origin of Life in the Universe (Kagaku Doujin), Earth, Planet, and Life (Japan Geoscience Union), Theory of Cosmic Life (University of Tokyo Press) are recommended. Handouts and slide presentations will be provided as necessary.

Assessment criteria and methods

Assignments will be made in class or by report by each lecturer. The final grade will be based on the total of these evaluations. If a student is found to have plagiarized another student's report or quoted from the web without permission, the grade will be zero.

Related courses

  • LST.A345 : Microbiology
  • EPS.A337 : Earth and Life
  • EPS.A334 : Biogeoscience
  • LST.A347 : Evolutionary Biology
  • LST.A503 : Environmental Microbiology

Prerequisites (i.e., required knowledge, skills, courses, etc.)

Not required.

Contact information (e-mail and phone)    Notice : Please replace from "[at]" to "@"(half-width character).

Kosuke Fujishima: fuji[at]elsi.jp Tomoaki Matsuura: matsuura_tomoaki[at]elsi.jp Shawn McGlynn: mcglynn[at]elsi.jp

Office hours

Wednesday: 9:00am~10:30am

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