Charles Cockell

Photo of Professor CS Cockell, FRSE
Professor CS Cockell, FRSE

Professor CS Cockell, FRSE

Professor of Astrobiology
Academic staff
James Clerk Maxwell Building (JCMB)
Room 1502

Charles is a member of the following School research institute and research areas:

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. 

Life in space

In this video Charles describes his research on outer space as an extreme environment. Only the most resistant microorganisms can survive there. By studying how they fare in space we can learn about how life prospers in extreme environments.

Recent publications

  1. , , , , , , and , Frontiers in Microbiology, 10
  2. , , , , , , , and , Astrobiology, 19, 3
  3. , , , , , , , , , , et al., Astrobiology
  4. , , , , and , Astrobiology