Research Focus Areas

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A SESE hallmark is its focus on transdisciplinary research. Rather than organizing ourselves by research methodologies, we emphasize research themes. These include: the origin and evolution of the universe, co-evolution of biological, chemical, and physical processes, evolution of planets and other celestial bodies, and best-practices for human and robotic exploration of space.

Cosmology, Astronomy, and Astrophysics

The School of Earth and Space Exploration is home to one of the world's leading centers for observational and theoretical research in astronomy and astrophysics. This includes over a dozen faculty members, and over half a dozen other Ph.D. astronomers and astrophysicists (research staff and postdocs), and (typically) about 20 graduate students. Our research interests range from the Solar System to stars, to the Milky Way, to the most distant galaxies in the Universe, and from cosmology to fundamental questions of astrobiology.

We have access to state-of-the-art facilities: 1) World-class telescopes and instrumentation for the sub-mm, radio, infrared, and optical 2) An interdisciplinary theoretical program, 3) Laboratories for the development of state-of-the-art instrumentation 4) Extensive computing facilities, including in-house parallel supercomputers. We also host a steady stream of visiting scientists. Astrophysics graduate students benefit from the low student-faculty ratio and extensive research opportunities in a supportive and friendly environment.

Learn more about our astrophysics undergraduate degree and the PhD in astrophysics. We also offer undergraduate minors in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Send general astronomy questions to

Cosmology Initiative

The Cosmology Initiative at ASU is one of the largest and most comprehensive cosmology programs in the country. Current faculty study the Universe from its earliest moments to its far future, using experimental, observational and theoretical techniques, on topics ranging from inflation and black holes, to galaxy formation and 21 cm emission, to astrobiology.

Earth Sciences

The Earth Sciences focus area comprises a broad spectrum of field-, computational-, and laboratory-based research efforts, spanning all corners of Earth's surface, and from the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the depths of the inner core. As with all of the School's themes, many research thrusts thrive through the interdisciplinary efforts of its researchers. Field-based exploration takes members of the School team from Yellowstone to Tibet to southern Africa, while the School's world-class laboratories enable exploration and discovery from within. Computational facilities in trhe School enable transformative discoveries through several in-house computer clusters, as well as extensive access to ASU's high-performance computing infrastructure. Arizona State Earth science research experiences for graduates and undergraduates are fulfilling, leading students to publish their research in high-profile research journals, win awards at major international research meetings, and land top jobs in both academia and industry.

Planetary Science

Planetary scientists seek answers to fundamental questions that involve the extended family of planets, moons, asteroids, and other bodies in the Solar System. Chief areas of planetary research at the School of Earth and Space Exploration include Mercury, the Moon, Mars, meteorites, and Jupiter's moon Europa. The School's scientists are engaged in exploring these objects' geological processes and histories, plus their chemical and mineralogical composition. Researchers are currently principal investigators or co-investigators for instruments on spacecraft at Mercury, Mars (both in orbit and on the ground), and, shortly, the Moon. Other School research in planetary science explores the origin and evolution of life on Earth and the potential for life outside it, for example on Mars and Europa. Our laboratory faciltiies for analyzing meteorites and extraterrestrial samples are among the world's finest and most up to date.

Undergraduate students looking to pursue a career in astrobiology are encouraged to look at our Astrobiology and Biogeosciences concentration within the BS in Earth and Space Exploration.

A great resource is the Women in Science Program Facebook page.

Science Education

At the School of Earth and Space Exploration, we are committed to science literacy. Outreach activities include a K-12 classroom field trip program, a speakers’ bureau, science events open to the public, 3D planetary shows in the Marston Exploration Theater, interactive exhibits at the Gallery of Scientific Exploration, and exhibits at local science events.

The School’s faculty, graduate students, and staff also appear regularly on local and national news and in major magazines and news sites as subject matter experts, on educational television shows on PBS and the Discovery Channel, and are featured in exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, the Arizona Science Center, and Grand Canyon National Park where faculty assisted in developing the “Trail of Time,” an interpretive walking geological timeline.  Many of the faculty are also authors of popular books and textbooks on science

In terms of pedagogy, the school’s faculty and staff have developed innovative teaching methods being used nationally to teach science through an exploration of the unknown, rather than through mastery of what is known. The School’s Center for Education Through eXploration designs, develops, and deploys exploration-based learning experiences through the use of digital platforms.

In addition, the School also leads the NASA Psyche Mission Capstone Projects, which are culminating, project-based courses focused on the Psyche Mission and undertaken by university students in the final (senior) year of university; and the “Psyche Inspired” program, which brings undergraduate students from any discipline or major together to share the excitement, innovation, and scientific and engineering content of NASA’s Psyche mission with the public in new ways through artistic and creative works.

Systems Engineering

Systems Engineering is the School's newest and fastest growing focus area. Through this initiative, we are building the capacity to design and build a wide array of instruments to enable scientific research on Earth and in space. Our research teams are involved in both component development and system integration. Current projects fall into three broad categories: astronomical instrumentation, sensors and cameras for remote sensing and in situ characterization of planetary surfaces, and microelectromechanical systems for a variety of terrestrial and space applications. Sound interesting? Check out our PhD degrees in Exploration Systems Design, or if you're an undergraduate explore our Exploration Systems Design concentration within the BS in Earth and Space Exploration degree.