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Institute of Astronomy


This week sees the launch of Cambridge’s new MPhil qualification in Planetary Sciences and Life in the Universe. The new programme will be jointly taught and led by astronomers, chemists, zoologists, plant biologists, and earth scientists. Applications for the course are now open

The MPhil is a 10-month cross-departmental programme designed to deliver outstanding postgraduate level training in the search for life’s origins on Earth and its discovery on planets beyond Earth.

Course co-ordinator, Prof Oli Shorttle, who is jointly based at Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy and Department of Earth Sciences, describes the course as “a really exciting opportunity, bringing together diverse scientific disciplines aiming to answer one of the most profound research questions.”

The course will explore the requirements for life’s beginnings: from its astrophysical origins to the emergence of biospheres, providing the essential knowledge for research in planetary science and life in the Universe.  

Dr Emily Mitchell, course leader from the Department of Zoology, said, “Understanding the nature of life outside our own planet requires not only an understanding of biology here on Earth, but also astronomy, chemistry and earth sciences. This new MPhil is perfect for giving all scientists, regardless of their training, this knowledge”

The MPhil has been designed by leading scientists from the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe which brings together researchers from across the University of Cambridge to enable cross-disciplinary research on the origin, nature, and distribution of life in the Universe.