Astrobiology Graduate Conference

14-18 September 2020

Hosted by the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be able to host an in-person meeting for AbGradCon 2020, but we are currently deliberating options for either hosting the meeting digitally or postponing the in-person meeting to AbGradCon 2021 still at ELSI in Tokyo, Japan. Please look for continued updates here on the AbGradCon website and on Facebook/Twitter (@abgradcon).

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 not to hold the in-person AbGradCon 2020 meeting in its current form and the associated Proposal Writing Retreat for 2020. With this said, we are hopeful that the current organizing community will be able to hold the meeting either digitally or in a postponed format in 2021. The details of either option are still being determined.

We thank all of you for applying for this year's AbGradCon and are very sorry that you will not be able to attend in the original format. 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 either in a digital format in 2020 or in a postponed form in 2021.

AbGradCon, as an institution, will live on. We hope to see you at the next available Astrobiology event! Stay safe.


The AbGradCon 2020 Organizing Team

What's new

Check below for the latest updates regarding AbGradCon 2020!

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

Credits: 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 marks 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 be held in-person as planned. Rather, digital and postponement options are currently being deliberated. Updates will come soon.
  • 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

Credits: Lucy Kwok (ELSI)

14-18 September 2020

  • Please note that an in-person AbGradCon 2020 will not be held.
  • The in-person Proposal Writing Retreat (PWR) will also not be held.
  • As the theme of this year's conference is "International Collaboration", we are deliberating on the best digital or postponement option to allow the greatest international participation, as well as meeting the needs of the original meeting plan. Updates will follow soon.
  • Please check updates about the undergraduate digital flash talk contest as well.

The application deadline was March 15th, 2020.

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)


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