Zach Timmons
  • Male
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Canada
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What best describes you?
Student, Scientist, Science enthusiast



I am currently working on a double honours in astrophysics and mathematics at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It is my dream to one day go to graduate school at McMaster University, where I hope to work with the Origins Institute. Since my school only offers a first-year, non-science astrobiology course, I have decided to make my own through directed studies. I have no idea how well that will work out, but luckily there are lots of great resources online. 

The courses I have designed for myself are as follows:

A Survey of Astrobiology: This course will survey the basic definition of living systems, and their biochemical and biophysical basis, as well as examine current theories about life’s origin and evolution on Earth, and how it may evolve on other planets both inside and outside the solar system. Topics covered will include the function of biomolecules, such as enzymes, proteins, and nucleic acids, the role of membranes, chemical and physical conditions on the young Earth, the RNA World, Ribosomal Tree of Life, evolution of living systems through fossil record, and non-carbon based life. The course is aimed at supplementing concentrated astrophysics study with insights from other scientific fields, namely biology, chemistry, biochemistry, planetary science, and geology.

Planetary Astrobiology: A continuation of A Survey of Astrobiology, Planetary Astrobiology will delve deeper into the formation of habitable worlds, accumulation of water and other volatiles, examine evidence from our own solar system relating to the early days of life on Earth, survey the coevolution of Earth and the biosphere, and will end with an introduction to the study of exoplanets.

Astrophysics of Planet Formation:Building on the foundational knowledge gained in Planetary Astrobiology, this course delves into the astrophysics of planet formation from first principles, observations, theory, and simulation.

Exoplanetology: This course is intended to examine both theory and practice in searching for exoplanets. The first component examines the detection methods currently in use, as well as possible future applications. The second component considers the use of detection techniques to learn about circumstellar discs and debris through contamination of stellar atmospheres, as well as looking at exoplanet atmospheres. A major component of this course will involve observation using the Burke-Gaffney Observatory.

Molecular Astrophysics and Astrochemistry: This course examines the study of the chemical processes of gasses and solids that occur in the universe, including the building blocks of pre-biotic compounds. Topics will include the chemical processes in dying stars, circumstellar gas, planetary nebulae, diffuse clouds, star-forming regions, and proto-planetary discs. It will also look at planets, satellites, comets, and asteroids. Both observational and theoretical methods will be discussed. A lab component is also included.

If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it :)

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