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Department of Earth Sciences

Illustration showing an open book with planets and plants sprouting out of it. In the background is a larger planet and galaxy

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 Department of Earth Sciences and Institute of Astronomy, 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.

Cambridge Earth Sciences is one of the Departments supporting the MPhil. “Earth Sciences is uniquely placed to tell us how these potential habitats for life form, evolve, and operate today,” said Shorttle. He added that, geoscientists are increasingly drawing on their observations and experiments on Earth to understanding how planets beyond our solar system work.  



Find out more about the new MPhil here.

Feature image credit: Amanda Smith