Life in Space – Exobiology Summer University

The village Banyuls-sur-mer

'The Origins of Life and Life in Space' is an annual two-week summer course about exobiology open to students from all over Europe.

It usually takes place at the end of August/beginning of September at the Laboratoire Arago in Banyuls-sur-mer, France.

The programme is run by a consortium of top European universities and each year 35-50 students participate.

The main goal of the Life in Space course is to introduce the participants to the range of space-related biological disciplines in which research is being carried out in Europe.

Who organises Life in Space?

The course is run by a consortium of participating universities consisting of:

  • Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris VI, France (lead university)
  • Universität Bonn, Germany
  • University of Firenze, Italy
  • University of Sassari, Italy
  • Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain
  • University of Valencia, Spain
  • Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH), Switzerland
  • University of Nottingham, UK

The course programme

One of the students presenting the team’s experiment design
One of the students presenting the team’s experiment design

The two-week course contains:

  • Lectures presented by European specialists on the origins of life, the space environment, the role of gravity in molecular, cellular, animal and plant behaviour, and the use of molecular tools in space biology.

  • Data analysis workshops which complement the lectures. The theory explained during the lectures is practised during the organised workshops.

  • Experiment design projects; in multi-national teams and together with the teachers the students work on their own life science experiment design. At the end of the course the projects are presented to the other student teams.
Hands-on experience during the courses
Hands-on experience during the courses

The course concludes with the distribution of certificates to the participating students.

There is also time to socialize, and a trip is planned to places of interest within the Banyuls area.

Trip to Fort de Salses near Perpignan
Trip to Fort de Salses near Perpignan

ESA contribution to Life in Space

ESA's Directorate of Human Spaceflight supports the Life in Space course with the following contributions:

  • ESA grants – grants for students and participating teachers. The selected students should be nationals from one of the ESA Member States* and they should not be eligible to receive financial support from the Socrates Programme.

  • E-learning session – a live contact with the opportunity to talk to an ESA astronaut.

  • ESA lectures – lectures presented by ESA staff on topics related to exobiology and/or human spaceflight and exploration.

* The ESA Member States are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Elearning session with ESA astronaut Frank DeWinne
Elearning session with ESA astronaut Frank DeWinne

Who can participate?

European students interested in exobiology with good study results can apply to take part in the Life in Space programme.

The course is taught in English, so a good command in English (both spoken and written) is recommended.

Participating students and teachers in 2006
Participating students and teachers in 2006

How to apply?

If you want to apply for the Life in Space programme, please send an application to Professor M. Maurel: maurel @

It should include personal contact details, a motivation letter and a CV.

More information


Observatoire Océanologique, Laboratoire Arago
Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris VI

Laboratoire Arago in Banyuls
Laboratoire Arago in Banyuls

Contact persons:

Life in Space:
Prof. Marie-Christine Maurel
Life in Space Coordinator
Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie
Email: marie-christine.maurel @

ESA: Nigel Savage
Email: Nigel.Savage @

Last update: 20 March 2012

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