Astrobiology & Geobiology

Understanding how life arose on our planet informs our understanding of how it may arise elsewhere in the universe.

Astrobiology is the study of the origins, early evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. It is the study of whether extraterrestrial life exists, and if it does, how humans can detect it. By nature, this work is collaborative, incorporating the fields of molecular biology, biophysics, biochemistry, chemistry, astronomy, physical cosmology, and geology. The unique intersection of these disciplines on our campus allows the Earth and Planets Laboratory to work on the leading edge of astrobiological research.

Similarly, geobiology is the study of how life has affected the Earth and how the Earth has affected life. Our researchers use molecular biology, environmental science, chemical analysis, and the geologic record to study the interconnectedness of our planet and its biosphere.

Studying life at extremes on Earth, like the bacteria living around these hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, could help us understand the origin of life on other planets. Credit: P. Rona / OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP); NOAA / Public domain


Staff Scientists

Andrew Steele -  Astrobiology; planetary science; using traditional and biotechnological approaches for the detection of microbial life in astrobiology and solar system exploration

Technical Staff

Jianhua Wang - SIMS Lab Manager

Postdoctoral Fellows and Associates

Vincent Riggi - Ph.D. Geology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2019)