2013 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  SEP 2012 – AUG 2013

EPO Activity: Undergraduate Course in Astrobiology at ECU

Project Progress

Carnegie NAI team member Matt Schrenk at Eastern Carolina University (ECU) developed and taught a course for Biology Honors students entitled “Life in Space: From Inquiry to Exploration and Back Again”. The course covered both the scientific and societal implications of advances in understanding the context of life on Earth, and the context of Earth relative to the rest of the universe. The 14-week, 28 session course was designed so that students would (a) Understand key terminology in the major scientific disciplines and be able to apply this knowledge to discussions of biological diversity and planetary exploration (b) Understand how planetary-scale processes have contributed to the evolution and adaptation of life on Earth© Appreciate how life, in particular humankind, can impact the future of biology, biological diversity, and ecosystems (d) Have the ability to apply the scientific method to analyze and solve problems from a variety of disciplines. Course requirements were: 1) Term Paper (30%) – 15-20 page scientific paper on an Astrobiology topic of the student’s choice, integrating aspects of Biology with another discipline, 2) Planning a Space Mission (20%) Students work in small teams of 2-3 people to develop a 15-20 page proposal for a space mission to investigate a topic in Astrobiology, 3) Astrobiology Journal (10%) – Students keep a journal of the lectures and group exercises they conduct in the course and write weekly one-page syntheses of the materials in terms of what has been learned, which technologies were used, and what remains to be discovered, 4) Midterm exam (20%) – Short answer and essay format to test the student’s ability to synthesize the material and readings covered in the first portion of the course and use it to creative problem solve, 5) Final Exam (20%) – Covering materials related to the future of our planet and the exploration of space. Six students took the course in the Spring semester 2013.