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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Physics and Astronomy : Undergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Undergraduate Course: Astrobiology (PHYS08051)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Physics and Astronomy CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Course typeStandard AvailabilityAvailable to all students
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 8 (Year 1 Undergraduate) Credits20
Home subject areaUndergraduate (School of Physics and Astronomy) Other subject areaNone
Course website None Taught in Gaelic?No
Course descriptionAstrobiology is an interdisciplinary science that examines the origin of life, the formation of planets and stars, the development of habitable conditions on planets, the evolution of life, life's limits in extreme environments and the potential for life beyond Earth. The course provides a framework for introducing a wide range of topics in astronomy, chemistry, earth sciences, biology, physics. Students will learn about cellular processes with a focus on the fundamentals of biological processes, the application of thermodynamics of biological systems and adaptations of life to extreme conditions. The course will provide a background to evolutionary changes in life during Earth's history and basic concepts in astronomy and planetary science that are applicable to the detection of Earth-sized planets around other stars. The course also covers the formation of stars and planets.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesPass at SQA Higher Maths, SQA Higher Physics or equivalent.
Displayed in Visiting Students Prospectus?No
Course Delivery Information
Delivery period: 2013/14 Semester 1, Available to all students (SV1) Learn enabled:  Yes Quota:  None
Web Timetable Web Timetable
Course Start Date 16/09/2013
Breakdown of Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 33, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 5, Summative Assessment Hours 12, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 144 )
Additional Notes
Breakdown of Assessment Methods (Further Info) Written Exam 75 %, Coursework 25 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)Astrobiology2:00
Resit Exam Diet (August)Astrobiology2:00
Summary of Intended Learning Outcomes
- Demonstrate an understanding of basic properties of matter and key cellular processes.
- Demonstrate a basic understanding of planet and star formation and the conditions that give rise to habitable conditions.
- Understand the basic astronomical and astrophysical principles used in the search for earth-like planets around other stars and the search for biosignatures.
- Demonstrate an understanding of cellular organisation and complexity.
- Understand the key hypotheses in the origin of life and the characteristics of the 'tree of life'.
- Understand the physical basis of adaptations to extreme environments.
- Identify major time periods in the geological history of the Earth, the conditions in which early life arose.
- Identify the evolutionary transitions in the history of life on Earth and assess the reasons for their occurrence.
- Evaluate scientific evidence using the discussions about life beyond Earth as a means to understand scientific hypotheses, critical thinking and the rigour of the sicentific method.
Assessment Information
25% Continuous Assessment
75% Examination
Special Arrangements
Additional Information
Academic description Not entered
Syllabus Basic Properties of Matter:
- Behaviour of gases, liquids and solids

Astronomy relevant to astrobiology
- Planet and star formation
- Solar System dynamics
- Detection of extrasolar planets

Origin of life and cellular processes:
- Origin of life
- Genetic Information
- Biochemical pathways
- Different cell types

Life in Extremes:
- Thermodynamics of life in extremes
- Biophysical adaptations to extremes
- Physical properties of extreme environments

History of Life on Earth:
- Major geological periods in Earth history and considions on the early Earth
- Major transitions in history of life on Earth
- Physical and chemical changes in Earth's environment through life and impact on life

- Basic background on formation of planets and stars
- The habitable zone and conditions for liquid water
- Physical and chemical conditions on other planetary bodies in the Solar System
Transferable skills Not entered
Reading list Not entered
Study Abroad Not entered
Study Pattern Not entered
Course organiserProf Charles Cockell
Tel: (0131 6)50 2461
Course secretaryMs Dawn Hutcheon
Tel: (0131 6)50 7218
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