Astrobiology Graduate Conference

Hosted by the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, AbGradCon 2020 will not take place.

This decision was not made lightly, and we waited to make a final decision for as long as we were able. Unfortunately, due to current situations related to inconsistent access to international travel, difficulty of visa applications, unavailability of essential administrative staff, and unknown health and safety risks, it is with deep regret that the organizing team of AbGradCon 2020 has decided that the in-person AbGradCon 2020 meeting and the associated Proposal Writing Retreat for 2020 will not take place. The local organizing committee believes that a digital AbGradCon meeting would not fulfill many of the original goals and intentions of AbGradCon, including fostering active discussions and personal connections between early career astrobiology researchers. The potential for postponement of AbGradCon to 2021 with many of the same local organizers at ELSI in Tokyo, Japan is still being deliberated. We hope that the current global situation changes so that AbGradCon 2021 can be safely hosted and that we can hold an in-person meeting at that time. Relevant updates will continue to be posted on and the AbGradCon Facebook/Twitter (@abgradcon) accounts.

We thank all of you for your support for this year's AbGradCon and are very sorry that the attendees will not be able to participate and meet. These are uncertain times. We would especially like to thank all of the volunteer organizers who have contributed with advertisement, funding, logistical planning, and abstract evaluations. It has been an amazing effort for everyone involved and all of us on the AbGradCon 2020 organizing committee are greatly disappointed, but optimistic that the meeting will occur in a postponed form in 2021.

Even though AbGradCon cannot occur in 2020, it is not the only way to engage with the Astrobiology research community. We have outlined a list of international Astrobiology opportunities you should be aware of for your continued involvement in the Astrobiology community around the world. Information on these events has been listed on the Astrobiology Opportunities Tab. These opportunities include digital seminar series, summer / winter schools and research networks. We encourage you to participate or apply for whichever opportunities overlap with your interests and availability to stay involved!

In addition, the ELSI LOC is currently collaborating with the NASA Ask an Astrobiologist program to feature former AbGradCon attendees. The AbGradCon alum(s) will discuss their current careers and the impact that AbGradCon had on their development as early career researchers. The details regarding the program are still being finalized, so we will inform you of that information as it becomes available.

For the winners of the Undergraduate Digital Flash Talk Contest, we are also planning to publish the results online in the near future to present their work and efforts for the contest.

While we understand that many of you may be disappointed about the cancellation of this year's meeting, we do hope that these resources and opportunities will help you to stay engaged with the astrobiology community.

Take care and stay involved!


The AbGradCon 2020 Organizing Team

What's new

Check below for the latest updates regarding AbGradCon 2020!

  • 2020/06/22: AbGradCon 2020 will not take place. A list of opportunities to stay connected to the astrobiology community is provided here.
  • 2020/05/22: Announcement that an in-person AbGradCon 2020 meeting will not be held.
  • 2020/03/19: We are happy to welcome Explainables as an official partner of AbGradCon2020 to lead a Science Communication workshop.
  • 2020/03/15: Abstract Application Deadline
  • 2020/02/16: Astrobiology Australasia Meeting Abstract Submission Open (Deadline March 31 AET). NOTE: Astrobiology Australasia Meeting has now been been postponed.
  • 2020/02/02: Undergraduate Digital Flash Talk Contest Information Updated!
  • 2020/01/17: Abstract submission deadline of AbGradEPEC, an early career researcher symposium before the EAI BEACON2020 meeting in La Palma, Spain by our friends at AbGradE, extended to January 22! NOTE: BEACON2020 has now been postponed to 2021.
  • 2020/01/14: Astrobiology Australasia Meeting announced as partner of AbGradCon 2020!
  • 2019/12/20: Applications are now open!
  • 2019/11/27: The AbGradCon 2020 website is live!

What is astrobiology?

Astrobiology is the study of the physical and chemical processes that led to the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. The research topics include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The physical and chemical processes that led to the evolution of life including the formation and evolution of the stars and planets
  • The nature and evolution of early planetary atmospheres, crusts, and interiors
  • Geochemical and geological processes
  • How the first prebiotic chemicals were synthesized
  • The transition between primitive chemistries to biologies
  • Biological evolution of organisms
  • Engineering and design of spacecraft and life detection technologies
  • Planetary protection
  • Fundamental properties of life
  • Co-evolution of life and Earth (or other planets)
  • Paleo-geochemistry

About AbGradcon

AbGradCon 2020 PosterCredits: Lucy Kwok (ELSI)
  • AbGradCon (Astrobiology Graduate Conference) provides a unique setting for astrobiologically-inclined graduate students and early career researchers to come together to share their research, to collaborate, and to network.
  • AbGradCon 2020 would have marked the 16th year of this conference—each time in a different place and organized by a different group of students and postdocs, but always with the original charter as a guide. This year's conference will not take place. However, we are currently discussing details related to AbGradCon 2021
  • These meetings have been wildly successful both when connected to AbSciCon, and as stand-alone conferences. Since it is organized and attended by only graduate students, post docs, and selected undergraduates, AbGradCon is an ideal venue for the next generation of career astrobiologists to form bonds, share ideas, and discuss the issues that will shape the future of the field.
  • Have a look at the AbGradCon 2019 website to know more about past conferences.
  • Here is an editorial about the history of the conference written by past AbGradCon organizers.
  • If you have any questions about the conference, please feel free to contact us at abgradcon [at] gmail [dot] com.

About ELSI


  • The Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), located on the Ookayama campus of Tokyo Institute of Technology, was launched in December 2012 as part of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).
  • ELSI’s research mission is to elucidate how our planet was formed and how its early environment allowed for the rise of initial life and its subsequent evolution to complexity. What distinguishes ELSI from other institutes studying the origins of life is its emphasis on placing the study in the context of the specific ecological system of the early Earth.
  • By exploring both the origin and evolution of the Earth and the origins and evolution of life, ELSI is creating a new field called ‘Bioplanetology’ as an interdisciplinary research focus.
Credits: Tokyo Tech

About the conference

AbGradCon 2020 logoCredits: Lucy Kwok (ELSI)

The application deadline was March 15th, 2020.

However, the 2020 meeting will not be held. Please check back later for information for the 2021 meeting.

code of conduct

Harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. All event attendees and staff have the right to a space that is free of all forms of discrimination, harassment, bullying, and/or retaliation. Participants who are requested to stop any harassing behaviour are expected to comply immediately. If you wish to report harassment, suspect that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of the organizing committee as soon as possible.



NASA Astrobiology Program

Blue Marble Space Institute


Japan Astrobiology Center

ELSI Firstlogic Astrobiology Donation Program

Astrobiology Australasia Meeting

Astrobiology Graduates in Europe (AbGradE)


Astrobiology Club

Social media



Links to past AGC websites

Salt Lake City (UT)

Atlanta (GA)

Charlottesville (VA)

Boulder (CO)

Madison (WI)

Montreal (Canada)

Los Angeles (CA)

Bozeman (MT)


If you have any questions about the conference, please feel free to contact us at abgradcon [at] gmail [dot] com.


ELSI Organizing Committee: Tony Z. Jia (Chair), Kristin N. Johnson-Finn (Co-chair), Irene Bonati, Kosuke Fujishima, Paula Prondzinsky, Harrison B. Smith, Kang Wei Lim, Yamei Li

External Organizers: Alma Ceja, Julia McGonigle, Lena Vincent, Natalie Grefenstette, Niraja V. Bapat, Petar Penev, Shreyas Vissapragada, Tyler Roche