The Salt Lake Community College Biology Department is adding a new special topics course for the 2019-20 school year.
Astrobiology, aka BIOL 2900, will be introduced as a pilot course beginning this fall. The course will focus on investigating the mysteries of life afar as we know it.
“The class is a fusion of astronomy and biology, particularly on what the possibilities are out there outside of earth for life,” says Jonathan Barnes, the associate dean of natural sciences.
Barnes and Maryjane Keleher, the associate dean of biology, will use their expertise in their respective fields to teach the course.
“I’m not a biologist,” Barnes emphasizes jokingly. “My background is [astronomy], and her background is –”
“Biology,” Keleher chimes in.
Astrobiology is a three-credit hybrid class that can fulfill a science general education requirement or as an elective.
The class is set up so that all textbook learning will be done online. In the classroom, students will have a more hands-on experience doing undergraduate research and experiments.
The annual School of Science, Mathematics and Engineering Symposium will give students an opportunity to use their research in class and present their findings.
The class will be taking a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats and other unique environments where life exists. A trip to Yellowstone might also be a possibility.
“When we think about what life would be outside of earth, the only place to find that out would be to look at weird places that life exists on earth,” Barnes says.
Places like deep-sea vents, the arctic, and Yellowstone are all examples where life is found in extreme conditions.
“We just want students to raise questions on what is life,” Keleher says.
Unfortunately, students who are interested in extraterrestrials and Area 51 will need to research that on their own time.
“The focus of the course will not be about intelligent life; just life in general,” Barnes says.
If the astrobiology pilot course is well-received, then it may go under further development.
Astrobiology is currently open for registration. The class begins Aug. 22 and will be offered at the Jordan and Taylorsville campuses.