EPSS C179/279 - Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: Theory and Applications


The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is based on a number of astronomical, mathematical, statistical, and computational principles. This course covers fundamental concepts in these disciplines in the context of SETI: abundance and architecture of extrasolar planetary systems; radio astronomy, including wave propagation and dispersion; signal processing, including sampling theory and Fourier transforms; random processes, including Gaussian and Poisson statistics, and algorithm development. During the laboratory component of the course, students design an observational program, acquire telescopic data, develop algorithms to analyze the data, and write a report on the results.


Lectures (two hours/week) are supplemented with laboratory exercises (two hours/week).

Course requirements

Enforced requisites: Math 31B and Phys 1B.


Grading is based on five problem sets (25%), a final exam (25%), and a final project (50%).


Here is the course syllabus.

Course evaluations

Course evaluations in Spring 2016 and 2017 indicate median overall ratings of the course of 8.5 (undergrads) and 9.0 (graduate students) on a scale from 1 to 9.

Register for the course

Course listing information can normally be found at the registrar's website by selecting Spring Quarter, and Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences. The next offering of the course will be in Spring 2019.


A SETI reading group was held in Summer 2014. A pilot course was taught in Spring 2015. The course in its present form was approved by the EPSS Curriculum Committee on May 20, 2015, by the Dean of Physical Sciences on May 27, by the Faculty Executive Committee on May 28, and by the Graduate Division on June 1, 2015. The UCLA registrar's office completed processing on June 29, 2015. The Breakthrough Listen Initiative was announced later that summer on July 20, 2015. The first three offerings of the course were in Spring 2016, 2017, and 2018, respectively. Read additional information about SETI efforts at UCLA.