Prof. Charles Cockell

Chair of Astrobiology
Research Theme:
Condensed Matter and Photonics
Research Group:
Hard Condensed Matter
Email address:
Telephone number:
+44 (0) 131 650 2961
School of Physics and Astronomy, James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road, Edinburgh, EH9 3FD, United Kingdom

Research interests

My research group is interested in Astrobiology. As a discipline, it seeks to understand the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the Universe. Our particular research focus lies in the study of life in extreme environments and understanding the the diversity, processes and biosignatures of life in extremes and the potential habitability of extraterrestrial environments. 

Our work is conducted within the UK Centre for Astrobiology, a virtual astrobiology centre we established in 2011 that is affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute. You can find more about this centre at


I am currently Course Organiser and teach on the pre-honours Astrobiology course (PHYS08051) at the University of Edinburgh (with Ken Rice). It seeks to give students a grounding in interdisciplinary science and the diverse disciplines including physics, astronomy, geology, biology and chemistry relavant to astrobiology.

I oversee and teach half of the SUPA Astrobiology and Search for Life course (SUPAASL), a graduate course in astrobiology.

I teach and run a Massive Open On-Line Learning (MOOC) introductory course on Astrobiology ( The course has attracted 130,000 students since it began.

I also direct Life Beyond, an education program for prisons that uses astrobiology and the design of Mars stations to advance science education and space exploration through prisons.

Through the UK Centre for Astrobiology, we also run the Astrobiology Academy (, an initiative I established to develop curriculum materials and lesson plans for primary and secondary schools. 

Research outputs

  1. BASALT A: Basaltic Terrains in Idaho and Hawaii as Planetary Analogues for Mars Geology and Astrobiology DOI
    Scott S. Hughes, Christopher W. Haberle, Shannon E. Kobs Nawotniak, Alexander Sehlke, W. Brent Garry, Richard C. Elphic, Samuel J. Payler, Adam H. Stevens, Charles S. Cockell, Allyson L. Brady et al., Astrobiology (2018)
  2. Using exoplanets to test the universality of biology DOI
    Charles S. Cockell, Nature Astronomy, 2, 10 , p. 758-759 (2018)
  3. Tactical Scientific Decision-Making During Crewed Astrobiology Mars Missions
    Adam Stevens, S E Kobs Nawotniak, W B Garry, Samuel Payler, A L Brady, M Miller, K Beaton, Charles Cockell and Darlene S. S. Lim, Astrobiology, 19, 3 (2018)
  4. Growth, Viability, and Death of Planktonic and Biofilm Sphingomonas desiccabilis in Simulated Martian Brines DOI
    Adam H Stevens, Delma Childers, Mark Fox-Powell, Natasha Nicholson, Elisha Jhoti and Charles S Cockell, Astrobiology (2018)
  5. Subsurface scientific exploration of extraterrestrial environments (MINAR 5) DOI
    Charles S. Cockell, John Holt, Jim Campbell, Harrison Groseman, Jean Luc Josset, Tomaso R.R. Bontognali, Audra Phelps, Lilit Hakobyan, Libby Kuretn, Annalea Beattie et al., International Journal of Astrobiology, p. 1-26 (2018)
  6. Y-Mars: An Astrobiological Analogue of Martian Mudstone DOI
    Adam H. Stevens, Elizabeth Steer, Alison Mcdonald, Elena S. Amador and Charles S. Cockell, Earth and Space Science (2018)
  7. Building a Geochemical View of Microbial Salt Tolerance: Halophilic Adaptation of Marinococcus in a Natural Magnesium Sulfate Brine DOI
    Mark G. Fox-powell and Charles S. Cockell, Frontiers in Microbiology, 9 (2018)
  8. The UK Centre for Astrobiology DOI
    Charles S Cockell, Beth Biller, Casey C. Bryce, Claire Cousins, Susana Direito, Duncan Forgan, Mark Fox-Powell, Jesse Harrison, Hanna Landenmark, Sophie L. Nixon et al., Astrobiology (2018)
  9. Rapid colonization of artificial endolithic uninhabited habitats DOI
    Charles S. Cockell, Luke Hecht, Hanna Landenmark, Samuel J. Payler and Matthew Snape, International Journal of Astrobiology, p. 1-16 (2017)
  10. The responses of an anaerobic microorganism, Yersinia intermedia MASE-LG-1 to individual and combined simulated Martian stresses DOI
    Kristina Beblo-Vranesevic, Maria Bohmeier, Alexandra K. Perras, Petra Schwendner, Elke Rabbow, Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Charles S. Cockell, Rudiger Pukall, Pauline Vannier, Viggo T. Marteinsson et al., PLoS One, 12, 10 (2017)
Last updated: 19 Feb 2018 at 21:11