Program Overview

The Georgia Tech Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Program is part of an initiative linking the Georgia Tech Schools of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, and Sam Nunn School of International Affairs

The purpose of the certificate program is to expand opportunities for students in the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology, which combines astronomy, biology, geosciences, chemistry, and physics to understand the origin, evolution, and possible distribution of life in the universe.

Unique components of the GT certificate program include the mission design course, in which students will forge innovative links between astrobiology science and engineering, and the science communication project, in which students will gain skills in translating astrobiology findings to the greater community.

The 12-credit embedded certificate program is open to graduate students enrolled in any degree program at Georgia Tech. There are no prerequisites for entering the program. More on graduate certificate programs at Georgia Tech here.

Martha Grover and Christine He


  • Students must complete the two required core courses, one cognate course, one special topics course, and one mission design course (see list below).
  • All coursework must be completed with a grade of B or higher.
  • Note: This certificate program is not currently offered via distance learning.  


Required Core Courses (3 credit hours total)

EAS 8001: Planetary Science & Astrobiology Seminar (1 credit, pass/fail, offered every semester ): Students will attend, participate, and (optional) present in weekly 50-minute ExplOrigins seminars on Fridays at 11 am. [spring 2020 syllabus]  [fall 2020 syllabus]

EAS/CHEM/BIO 8802: Seminal Papers in Astrobiology (2 credits, letter grade, offered spring semesters): This course will meet for two hours each week to discuss a different highly cited paper related to the weekly seminar topic and spanning astrobiology sub-disciplines. Students will also complete an independent science communication project. [spring 2021 syllabus] [click here for sci comm assignment]

One Cognate Course (3 credit hours; 1 course from list below*):

AE 6353: Orbital Mechanics (every fall)
AE 6450: Rocket Propulsion (odd springs)
AE 6451: Electric Propulsion (odd falls)
BIOL/EAS 6765: Geomicrobiology (odd falls)
BIOL 6410: Microbial Ecology (odd springs)
BIOL 6428: Population Dynamics (even springs)
BIOL 6600: Evolution (every semester)
BIOL 6607: Molecular Microbiology of Microbes (every spring)
BIOL 6720: Environmental Microbial Genomics (even springs)
CHEM 6572: Macromolecular Structure (every fall)
CHEM 6582: Biophysical Chemistry (every spring)
EAS 6122: Biogeochemical Cycles (odd springs)
EAS 6130: Earth System Modeling (every fall)
EAS 6200: Environmental Geochemistry (every fall)
EAS 6216: Isotope Geochemistry (odd springs)
EAS 6370: Physics of Planets (occasionally)
EAS 6375: Earth and Planetary Materials (odd springs)
EAS 6380: Land Remote Sensing (odd falls)
AE 6450: Rocket Propulsion (odd springs)


One Special Topics Course (3 credit hours; 1 course from list below*):
BIOL 7111: Molecular Evolution (every fall)
BIOL 8803: Origin of Complex Life: Cells to Societies (even years)
CHEM 8803: Chemistry of the Origins & Early Evolution of Life (occasionally)
CHEM 8853: Structure, Function & Origins of Biological Macromolecules (even springs)
EAS 8803: Ice-Ocean Moons and Planets (occasionally)
EAS 8803: Origin of Planetary Systems (occasionally)
EAS 8803: Earth System Evolution in a Planetary Context (even springs)
INTA 8001: Science, Technology & International Affairs (every spring)
INTA 8803: Space Policy (every spring – not offered spring 2021)
INTA 8803: Space Security (every fall – not offered fall 2021)
PHYS 8813: Radiative Processes (every spring starting spring 2021)

One Mission Design Course (3 credit hours; 1 course from list below*):
AE 6372: Aerospace Systems Engineering (every fall)
AE 6561: Reliable Control Software for Aerospace (occasionally)
AE 8803: Satellite Orbit Determination (odd springs)
AE 8803: Small Satellite Design I/II (occasionally)
AE 8803: Spacecraft Attitude Determination and Control (occasionally)
CHEM 8823: Instrument Design (occasionally)
EAS 6360: Intro to Space Physics & Instrumentation (occasionally)
EAS 8803: TeamX Spacecraft (every fall)       
EAS 8803: Planetary Spacecraft Design (occasionally)

*Students may petition to substitute cognate, special topics, and mission design course(s) with alternative courses that cover material of relevance to astrobiology. Courses cannot be used in more than one category.

Virtual Seminal Papers in Astrobiology course, Spring 2021.

Chase Chivers presents on the origins of planetary systems in “Seminal Papers” Spring 2020 (faculty host: Professor James Wray).

Examples of how students in different graduate programs could complete this certificate:

AE graduate student
Spring 1: Core course (EAS 8001+8802)
Fall 1: Cognate course (see list above)
Spring 2: Mission course (any, see list above)
Fall 2: Special Topics course (see list above)

BIOL graduate student
Spring 1: Core course (EAS 8001+8802)
Fall 1: Cognate course (see list above)
Spring 2: Mission course (suggested: CHEM8823)
Fall 2: Special Topics course (see list above)

CHEM graduate student
Spring 1: Core course (EAS 8001+8802)
Fall 1: Cognate course (see list above)
Spring 2: Mission course (suggested: CHEM 8823)
Fall 2: Special Topics course (see list above)

EAS graduate student
Spring 1: Core course (EAS 8001+8802)
Fall 1: Cognate course (see list above)
Spring 2: Mission course (suggested: EAS 6360 or 8803)
Fall 2: Special Topics course (see list above)

Zijian Li presents on primitive amino acids in “Seminal Papers” Spring 2020 (faculty host: Professor Nick Hud).

If you have met the requirements to complete the Astrobiology Graduate Certificate, complete this form and email it to Prof. Jennifer Glass Please do not submit the form until you have completed all of the requirements for the certificate. Certificates will be awarded at the next ExplOrigins Astrobiology Symposium (annually during spring semester).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I’m an undergraduate student at Georgia Tech. May I earn this certificate?

A: Unfortunately, no. However, if there is sufficient interest, we will pursue the possibility of creating an undergraduate version of this program in the future.

Q: If I am not enrolled as a graduate student at Georgia Tech, may I obtain a Graduate Certificate of Astrobiology through your program? 

A: Unfortunately, no. Our certificate program is limited to graduate students currently enrolled in any graduate degree program at Georgia Tech.

Q: Do you offer a MS / Masters or PhD / doctoral program in Astrobiology?

A: No. Instead, we have the Graduate Certificate of Astrobiology program, which is open to all enrolled graduate students in any graduate program at Georgia Tech. This is an additional certificate that you can put on your CV and will show you have additional training in this field, to make our students stronger on the job market. Many of our students do research in astrobiology-related topics for their graduate work, but their degrees are in one of the graduate degree programs at Georgia Tech (e.g. Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Chemistry/Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Physics, Aerospace Engineering, etc).

Q: Do I need to specify my interest in pursuing the Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Program on my graduate application to Georgia Tech?

A: No. You are welcome to mention the program in your personal statement as one of the reasons you’re interested in Georgia Tech, but doing so is not required to take the certificate program. There is no special form or application. All current enrolled graduate students who complete the required courses with sufficient grades are qualified to receive the certificate (see details above). Once you have met the requirements, you simply complete this form and email it to Prof. Jennifer Glass

Q: What undergraduate major(s) should be earned to be eligible for your Astrobiology Graduate Certificate? Does it need to be a three year or a four year degree university program?

A: Our graduate students typically have bachelors degrees from 4-year universities in one of the sciences or engineering, and some of them come from humanities backgrounds. Anyone who enters Georgia Tech as a graduate student is eligible to join our Astrobiology Graduate Certificate program. Some of our students have previously earned a Master’s degree, but that is not required, and Georgia Tech Master’s degree students are welcome to participate in this program. 

Q: What are the admissions requirements to Georgia Tech graduate programs? 

A: Graduate admissions requirements and the applications process are explained in detail on the Georgia Tech Graduate Studies Website. The Astrobiology Graduate Certificate Program is not involved in admissions to any Georgia Tech graduate programs. Requirements for each graduate programs are listed on the degree program’s website. Please email graduate program coordinators for more information on admissions requirements to MS and PhD programs at Georgia Tech; the Astrobiology Graduate Certificate coordinator will not be able to provide any details on admissions requirements

Q:  Are my bachelors degree credits transferable to cover the cognate course requirements for this program?

A: Generally, no. Graduate programs will usually expect that you retake some courses at the graduate level with faculty in your graduate program to gain more specific expertise. By taking the cognate courses with our Georgia Tech faculty, you will learn more about astrobiology, which is one of the major goals of our program, and you will get to know our faculty, which is useful for assembling your graduate committee and for letters of recommendation. If you are credit-limited and have already completed a previous graduate program at another university, and if GT accepts your transfer credits to count towards your graduate credits, and if your graduate advisor approves, it may be possible to count your cognate course credits for this certificate. Please email Prof. Jennifer Glass ( if you have this situation.

Q: What careers do astrobiologists pursue? 

A: You can find more about requirements and career paths in astrobiology on this website. If you are interested in astrobiology, you might also consider joining Saganet.

If you have further inquires about the certificate program that are not covered in the FAQs above, please contact Prof. Jennifer Glass at