Meow- Ludo took BABS6741 Astrobiology, he had a great time, learnt heaps and found love. Why wouldn’t you want to do this course? Wavelength talked to Meow-Ludo who is currently completing his honours in genetics, about the Astrobiology course which he completed in 2013.
Meow, tell us why you decided to take the BABS6741 Astrobiology course?
I really enjoy interdisciplinary courses that aim to expand my knowledge of fields that I didn’t major in but find interesting. Astrobiology allowed me to understand how my primary field (genetics/molecular biology) is used by other fields such as geology and astronomy. I got curious about the class because it sounded really unique and looking for life on other planets seeks to answer questions which are integral to understanding our own existence, namely: “Are we alone?”, “how did life on earth start?”, “is earth unusual?”.
Tell us about BABS6741 Astrobiology.
The three main disciplines that are studied in this course are: Astrophysics, Geology, and Micro/Molecular Biology. You do not need in-depth knowledge of these subject areas, however, you are expected to have completed enough science at first-year level to be able to follow and understand the course content. The classes are made up of students that specialise in at least one of these areas. You will find that the information on your speciality is presented at a low level, so one third of the class will be very easy. Conversely, the other two-thirds will be very challenging!Some notable lectures include; planetary development, the SETI program, pre-biotic earth, extra-solar planet detection and interrogation, and life on Mars.
Who would enjoy this course?
If you enjoy science-fiction you will absolutely love this class. It is great for people that are unsure about what they want from a science degree because it shows a lot of alternate pathways that you can take in science. It suits a student that has a broad, creative mind, and isn’t scared of a challenge. This course can be quite difficult because the tutorials cover so many topics, however it does make for the most interesting discussions I have ever had in tutorials. There is a lot of class interaction as this is the only way to fully explore all the concepts that are introduced on this course.
What do you consider to be the highlights of the course?
The lecturers are of the highest calibre, some of which have been on TV series to explain their findings. The course has interesting assignments, thought-provoking content, and a strong emphasis on providing careers at its completion. My personal highlight was the ability to get involved with the Australian Astrobiology Conference. You also get to physically interact with things like micro-fossils and meteorites.
What did you gain from doing BABS6741 Astrobiology?
I gained a more in-depth understanding about life on Earth spanning from the big-bang to present day and beyond. I learnt how planets form, and how we can detect them. I know why we search the skies and what types of transmissions we are looking for. I can now argue why I think we should look for life on Enceladus instead of Mars, and why we might all actually be descended from Martians. This course gave me an ability to integrate all of my biological knowledge with two other fields in a way that enables me to have meaningful conversations with other scientists that enhances both our understandings of a wide range of topics.
Students from all disciplines are welcome to enroll. Prerequisite: 30 UoC of science courses. Check out the details at: http://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/undergraduate/courses/2014/BABS6741.html. Any questions please email: BABstudent@unsw.ed.au