Charles Cockell

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Professor C Cockell

Professor C Cockell


Professor of Astrobiology

Contact details

Email: c [dot] s [dot] cockell [at] ed [dot] ac [dot] uk
Tel: +44 (0)131 650 2961
Location: Room 1502, JCMB


Research institute

Research areas

Biographical information

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. In particular, we are interested in life in extreme environments and understanding the the diversity, processes and biosignatures of life in extremes.

Projects include studies of microorganisms and their elemental cycling in dark, deep hypersaline environments using the Boulby International Subsurface Astrobiology Laboratory (BISAL), a fully equipped microbiology laboratory we have set up at 1km depth in the Boulby mine. We are also investigating the habitability of Martian environments, looking at microbial access to ancient carbon and we have experiments studying the growth and behaviour of organisms in space using the International Space Station. We apply this work to understanding the earth system better and contributing to the robotic and human exploration of space.

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 (


I am currently Course Director 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 80,000 students since it began.

Recent publications

  1. Biosignatures for Astrobiology DOI
    and , Origins of life and evolution of biospheres, 46, 1, p. 105-106
  2. Mesophilic Mineral-Weathering Bacteria Inhabit the Critical-Zone of a Perennially Cold Basaltic Environment DOI
    , , and , Geomicrobiology journal, 33, 1, p. 52-62
  3. An ESA roadmap for geobiology in space exploration DOI
    , and , Acta astronautica, 118, p. 286-295
  4. Habitability: A Review DOI
    , , , , , , , , , , , et al., Astrobiology, 16, 1, p. 89-117
  5. Biosignatures on Mars: What, Where, and How? Implications for the Search for Martian Life DOI
    , , , , , , , , , et al., Astrobiology, 15, 11, p. 998-1029