Zoe Todd

Assistant Professor

College of Letters and Science | Depts. of Chemistry and Astronomy

Hometown: State College, PA

I study astrobiology – when people ask what astrobiology is, I usually reply with “aliens!” and it’s only slight a joke. I study the conditions and processes that may have led to the origins of life on Earth, and then apply this to the search for life elsewhere. Astrobiology is highly interdisciplinary – it involves fields such as astronomy, physics, planetary science, chemistry, biology, geology, and many more!


From Astronomy to Chemistry: Towards a continuous path for the origins of life

How might life have started on Earth, and what role did the planetary environment play in these chemical/biochemical processes? If we better understand the origins of life on Earth, we will be better able to assess the possibility for finding life on other planets. In this talk, I will discuss various research projects we’ve undertaken to address these questions.

Life in the Universe

What are the chances that there is life elsewhere in our universe, and how might we first detect or find it? It is currently unclear if life is common or not, given that we only know of one planet (the Earth) that is inhabited. Why might life not be common and why don’t we see signs of it when we look out in space? Here, I will discuss these possibilities and open-ended questions that grapple with humanities place in the universe.