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About the Institute for Planets and Life

A highly interdisciplinary team of scientists at Johns Hopkins University, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the Applied Physics Laboratory combine their expertise to address fundamental questions about the origins, evolution, and prevalence of life in the universe. In addition to providing guidance for research, the team administers graduate and undergraduate lecture courses on these topics.

The institute also hosts the Planets, Life, and the Universe (PLU) Lecture Series, which brings high-profile speakers from prominent universities and organizations to campus to discuss current topics in astrobiology. The presentations are available live and as webcasts online.

Planets, Life, and the Universe Lectures

The Planets, Life, and the Universe Lecture Series is supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Department of Biology, the Department of Chemistry, the Department of Biophysics, the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Johns Hopkins University, and the Ernst Cloos Memorial Fund from the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences of Johns Hopkins University. Upcoming lectures are highlighted below.

View All PLU Lectures

Our Research Areas

Artist concept disk of clouds and dust


Driven by the recent and profound discovery of ubiquitous Earth-like exoplanets, our central quest is to understand the origin and prevalence of life in exoplanetary systems using our knowledge of the universe.

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Photo from atop the Panamint Range looking down to the east towards Badwater Basin in Death Valley.

Planetary Sciences

We seek to understand how atmospheric chemistry, geochemical processes, and environmental conditions affect the habitability of planets in our solar system and those that lie beyond it.

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Atacama Desert

Biological Sciences

With the study of microbial communities from extreme environments we seek to determine the limits for life as we know it, where else life might be found, and which biosignatures we should look for in our solar system and beyond.

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  • Related Resources

    Artist concept shows asteroid belt

    Learn about conferences, fellowship and grant opportunities, and the courses we offer.


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