Online course designed for high school students

Astrophysics and Evolutionary Biology: The Origins of Life

Do the wonders of the universe follow a pattern? Does the way stars are born share something with the way life evolves? This course gets to the heart of the matter. Whether you want to major in a STEM subject, pre-med or seek a future in law or journalism, a good background in science is key. Take the ultimate tour of the Cosmic Zoo: from the Big Bang, to emergence of life on earth, from solar system to ecosystem. Along the way you’ll meet dinosaurs, nanoscience, mutant viruses and exoplanets and explore the depths of human consciousness.

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The galaxy and deep space demonstrating how the universe began

Program Dates

Multiple two- and four-week sessions


For students ages 13+



From the Macrocosm to the Microcosm

Stars, Planets and Black Holes

White dwarfs. Neutron stars. Black holes. Study remnants left behind when stars and planets run out of fuel. How did life arise in this symphony of forces?

Tour of the Solar System

From the sun to the asteroid belt to the outer-reach planets, travel our cosmic neighborhood, coming to rest on the pale blue dot we call home.

The Origin of Life

Identify the biology of the first lifeforms? What are the parallels between our solar system and others? How do we search for life on distant planets?

Dinosaurs, Evolution and Extinction

Witness the rise and fall of prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs, trilobites, and flying reptiles. Experience evolution from the triumph of species to their mass extinction.

Origins of Humans

Meet your ancestors. Get acquainted with the early humans from whom you arose. Learn how our species evolved and what makes us unique.

Prepare for a Future in Science

Topics covered in this course offer a good background for potential university study in physics, astronomy, biology and evolution and science writing.

How You Will Benefit

Male student taking the astrophysics online course from Case Western Reserve

  • Get deep insight into the way scientists think and learn to apply their principles in your own schoolwork.
  • Acquire the background you need to research future majors in STEM, the individual sciences, medicine, psychology — and any profession that requires innovative thinking such as law and entrepreneurship.
  • Develop a basic understanding of the origins and evolution of the universe.
  • Learn asynchronously: Lessons by your professor are delivered as videos so that you can tune in whenever your schedule allows — the ultimate in flexibility
  • Earn a Certificate of Completion from Case Western Reserve University.

Apply Now for the Next Available Course

June 9 - June 23

Length: 2 weeks

Cost: $1,295.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, June 2, 2024

July 7 - July 21

Length: 2 weeks

Cost: $1,295.00

Application Deadline: Sunday, June 30, 2024

All course options, whether 2 or 4 weeks, have the identical educational content, learning materials, and number of assignments. The difference in length of course is due to time of year (not amount of instruction). We know the school year keeps you busy, so we’ve made the course longer during that time so that you can get assignments done.

3 Learning Advantages Designed for You

Flexible Learning

  • 100% online, works with your schedule
  • 20 to 25 hours of total instruction and course work, including engaging multimedia, simulations, and curated assignments for which you will receive guidance and support
  • A flexible format: You’ll learn through engaging video and can tune in anytime that works for you.
  • Engage with students from around the world


You’ll receive guidance from a mentor who can answer questions and provide support throughout the course. You can expect:

  • Encouragement and direction on all assignments
  • Inspiration, motivation and confidence to help you succeed
  • Brainstorming and ideation help as you prepare for your final project

Final Project

The course culminates in a final project in which you will:

  • Design a board game or poster inspired by the topics covered in the course
  • Present the project of your preferred medium
  • Receive feedback from your mentor on your work

Course designed by Case Western Reserve University Professors

Dr. Patricia Princehouse | Astrophysics Course Instructor | Case Western Reserve

Dr. Patricia Princehouse

Director, Program in Evolutionary Biology

Princehouse earned her MA from Yale and a PhD from Harvard University. Concentrating her scientific work on primate evolution, she has completed museum and fieldwork in North America, Europe and Africa. Recently, she has turned to the digital organisms of “artificial life” programs as a way of testing elements of evolutionary theory. Her work has won wide recognition including Ohio Magazine’s Educational Excellence award.

Dr. Glenn Starkman | Astrophysics Course Instructor | Case Western Reserve

Dr. Glenn Starkman

Distinguished University Professor and Co-Chair, Dept. of Physics, Professor of Astronomy, Director of the Institute for the Science of Origins and of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics

Starkman's an alumnus of the University of Toronto with a PhD from Stanford University. His research career took him to the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics before bringing him to Case Western Reserve. In 2003 Starkman was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. He was among the founding board members of the Reinvention Center, a national center focusing on undergraduate education at research universities.

Course Mentors

Katherine | Astrophysics Course Mentor


Case Western Reserve University graduate with a major in Evolutionary Biology and Origin Sciences. Currently pursuing an MS in Anatomy and Vertebrate Paleontology at Oklahoma State University.

Luke | Astrophysics Course Mentor


Case Western Reserve University graduate of the Origins Science program and the Astronomy program.

How to Apply

It’s easy. No transcripts or letters of recommendation are required. Just provide some basic information and tell us why you wish to take this program.

Note: Please submit all application materials in English.

Begin the guided process. It should take only a few minutes of your time to answer the questions.

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Female student working at her computer.

Want to Know More?

Sign up for more information and we’ll be in touch.


Our application is easy. You can expect a prompt decision.

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Frequently asked questions

How will you be graded? What are assignments like? Are there required materials? How much time do you get to turn around a project? When do you found out if you're accepted?

Find answers to your questions


We offer need-based pre-college program scholarships in each cohort to students who need assistance with the program cost. The scholarship application is a part of the overall program application. 

If you would like to be considered for a scholarship but you:

The University reserves the right to modify the course as may become necessary.