Astrobiology and the Origins of Life - 2016

To enrol in this unit, you must be accepted into a course from the provider. Read before you start
This page is for past year, View 2017 unit details.

Unit summary


  • Level of Study: Postgraduate
  • Study load: 0.125 EFTSL
  • Delivery method: Fully Online
  • Prerequisites: Yes
  • Duration: 13 weeks
  • Government loans available: FEE-HELP
  • Availability for 2016: SP1
  • Assessment: Assessment - Newsgroups (30%) , Project (50%) - Learn more

Unit provided by

2016 Fees
Domestic 2,300.00
Domestic continuing 1,966.00
International 2,550.00
International continuing 2,216.00

Tuition fees are reduced for continuing registered Swinburne students.
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This unit provides an overview of the multidisciplinary nature of astrobiology - combining geology, chemistry, biology and astronomy. It will investigate the origins and evolution of life on Earth, the interaction between life and its environment, and the search for life elsewhere in the Solar System and beyond. This unit assumes familiarity with Exploring the Solar System and Exploring Stars and the Milky Way.

At the completion of this unit students should be able to:

  1. Identify and describe current theories of Solar System formation, the various theories of how life began on Earth and the parallel evolution of life and the environment
  2. Discuss and explain how our limited understanding of life influences current searches for life in the Solar System
  3. Recognise how astrobiology relates to other sciences
  4. Explain basic principles and concepts about the synthesis of complex molecules in a nontechnical way understandable to the wider public
  5. Use problem solving skills to explain solutions to problems in astrobiology and the origins of life
  6. Design and create a research project using credible sources of astronomical information and research articles and/or observational means
  • Assessment — Newsgroups (30%)
  • Project (50%)
  • Test — Online tests (20%)

Equivalent units

You cannot enrol in this unit if you have successfully completed any of the following unit(s) because they are considered academically equivalent:

  • HET618 — Astrobiology and the Origins of Life

Mandatory prerequisites

You must have successfully completed the following unit(s) before starting this unit:

If you have completed equivalent study at another university, please contact a Student Advisor for advice.

  • Broadband access

In order to enrol in this unit, you must be accepted into one of the following courses:

Please visit the course details page and read the Requirements tab for more information about eligibility.

This unit addresses the following topics.

1An introduction to astrobiology and its multi-disciplinary nature
2The early Earth and the rise of life
3The co-evolution of life and its environments
4Origin of the Solar System
5Molecular biology, the tree of life, and the search for the last universal common ancestor
6The synthesis of complex organic molecules on Earth and in space
7The possibility of life elsewhere in the Solar System
8Extrasolar planets, habitability and the signatures of life

This unit is delivered using the following methods and materials:

Instructional Methods

  • Discussion Forum/Discussion Board
  • Embedded Multimedia
  • Online Quizzes/Tests
  • Online assignment submission
  • Standard Media
  • Web links

This unit is an approved elective in the following courses:

This unit may be eligible for credit towards other courses:

  1. Many undergraduate courses on offer through OUA include 'open elective' where any OUA unit can be credited to the course. You need to check the Award Requirements on the course page for the number of allowed open electives and any level limitations.
  2. In other cases, the content of this unit might be relevant to a course on offer through OUA or elsewhere. In order to receive credit for this unit in the course you will need to supply the provider institution with a copy of the Unit Profile in the approved format, which you can download here. Note that the Unit Profile is set at the start of the year, and if textbooks change this may not match the Co-Op textbook list.

Textbook information for this unit is currently being updated and will be available soon. Please check back regularly for updates. Alternatively, visit the The Co-op website and enter the unit details to search for available textbooks.

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