Chancellor’s Award in Teaching

Professor Charles Cockell has been awarded the 2017 Chancellor’s Award for Teaching.

The Chancellor confers four Awards annually, recognising innovation, relevance, creativity, personal dedication and impact in teaching and research.  The Award for Teaching honours a colleague who has recently enhanced the University's teaching reputation through a significant contribution to improving or invigorating student learning at any level.

Professor Charles Cockell is Course Director on the Astrobiology course which seeks to give students a grounding in interdisciplinary science and the diverse disciplines including physics, astronomy, geology, biology and chemistry relevant to astrobiology.  He oversees and teaches half of the Astrobiology and Search for Life SUPA course, a graduate course in astrobiology.  He also teaches and runs a Massive Open On-Line Course (MOOC) on Astrobiology.  This course has attracted 120,000 students since it began.

He is also directing a program of science education in prisons. Life Beyond is a four-week course that involves inmates in the design of a station for the surface of Mars with the purpose of engaging them in the future exploration of space. Next year the inmates will publish their first set of original research from HMP Glenochil and Edinburgh. Since he started at Edinburgh, he has also been running the Astrobiology Academy, a teacher training initiative which writes science lesson plans and curriculum for primary and secondary schools using astrobiology as the core material.

His research in Astrobiology seeks to understand the origin, evolution and distribution of life in the Universe.  In particular, work takes place investigating life in extreme environments and understanding the diversity, processes and biosignatures of life in extremes.  His work is conducted within the UK Centre for Astrobiology, a virtual astrobiology centre established in 2011 that is affiliated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Professor Cockell commented  "I’m very delighted to receive this award, which I hope will raise the profile of astrobiology as a useful subject to advance science education, whether that be among undergraduates or people serving terms in prison."