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2011 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: EPO: Dual Title PhD Program in Astrobiology

Project Progress

Graduate students at Penn State are able to obtain a dual-titled Ph.D. in their primary field of endeavor and Astrobiology. The program enables students from several graduate programs to gain the perspectives, techniques, and methodologies of Astrobiology, while maintaining a close association with primary program areas of application. The program is chaired by James Kasting (co-investigator) and administered by the Department of Geosciences. Fourteen other Penn State Astrobiology Research Center (PSARC) co-investigators serve on its program faculty.

To qualify for a dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the major graduate program in which they are enrolled, in addition to the minimum requirements of the Astrobiology program. The minimum course requirements for the dual-title in Astrobiology are ABIOL 574 Planetary Habitability (3 credits), ABIOL 590 Astrobiology Seminar (2 credits), ABIOL 570 Astrobiology Field Experience (2 credits), and at least 2 credits of 400- or 500-level course work outside of the student’s major program in an area relevant to Astrobiology (through consultation with their adviser). All students must pass a candidacy examination that assesses their potential in the field of astrobiology. This examination may be part of the candidacy examination in the student’s major graduate program if an Astrobiology faculty member serves on the examination committee and if acceptable to the major program. If not, the Astrobiology dual-title program will offer a second candidacy examination. The structure and timing of the second candidacy examination will be determined jointly by the dual-title and major program. The student’s doctoral committee should include faculty from the Astrobiology program, but this person may be the adviser and have an appointment in the major program of study. The field of Astrobiology should be integrated into the comprehensive examination. A Ph.D. dissertation that contributes fundamentally to the field of Astrobiology is required. A public oral presentation of the dissertation is required.