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The Job

Astrobiologists study the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of all life forms in the universe. Astrobiologists' work is varied—they try to find answers to such questions as how life forms are affected by changes in environment, if any forms of life exist on other planets, as well as the adaptability of human beings to extraterrestrial environments.

Most astrobiologists work for government-funded agencies such as NASA. For example, at NASA's Ames Research Center, astrobiologists could be assigned to work on research projects covering animal muscle evolution or plant adaptation. Much of their work takes place inside a laboratory with actual specimens, but sometimes the nature of their research takes them to different places around the world. Some are even assigned to help plan and monitor experiments for future spaceflight missions.

Many other astrobiologists find work at the university level, either as researchers or educators. Academic positions are quite competitive, since only a few schools offer programs devoted to astrobiology. However, this may change in the near future as interest grows in this interdisciplinary field.

Astrobiologists also work at private research institutes located worldwide. An astrobiologist employed as a researcher at the Scripps Research Institute, for example, might conduct studies on the effects of drastic environments on simple proteins. Researchers strive to have their work published in industry journals such as Astrobiology Magazine or presented at seminars offered by the NASA Astrobiology Institute.