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2009 Annual Science Report

Arizona State University Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

EPO Activity: EPO: Undergraduate Courses and Degree Programs

Project Progress

NAI faculty played key roles in a redesign of the undergraduate degree programs in the ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE) that significantly increases and updates the portfolio of Astrobiology topics and findings taught to all SESE undergraduates. This redesign has a lateral component and a vertical component.

The vertical component is an all-new Bachelor of Science degree in Earth and Space Exploration with Astrobiology Concentration, which is designed to prepare students for graduate studies and eventual professional careers in Astrobiology research and space exploration. This degree program has been approved.

The lateral component infuses cutting-edge astrobiology into all new SESE degree programs through an upgrade of the existing core courses Essentials of Astrobiology (SES 311) and Astrobiology (GLG 460), and the proposed development of a new astrobiology-based, senior research thesis course, Origins Research (SES 420). In the latter course, individual students or 2-3 student research teams would work directly with NAI faculty on astrobiology research toward the completion of a publishable senior thesis. Students in this course would also be afforded opportunities for small-group interaction and mentoring with visiting astrobiology researchers of global stature through the Origins Initiative.

We have also begun development of a lower-division introductory undergraduate astrobiology course, intended for wide distribution principally to non-STEM majors, tentatively titled “Habitable Worlds”. This course is also a component of a new SESE Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth and Environmental Studies. The course will draw on current research, and much of it will be offered asynchronously online, allowing for dissemination to students beyond ASU and around the globe.

The new courses and new degree program will be phased in starting in spring 2010 and should be fully implemented by the end of the 2010-2011 academic year.