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.


The course is intended for graduate students and advanced undergraduate students.


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%) and a final project (75%).


Here is the course syllabus.

Course evaluations

The median course/instructor scores reported in anonymous course evaluations in 2018, 2019, and 2020 were 9/9, 8.5/8.5, and 9/9, respectively, on a scale from 1 to 9.

Register for the course

Course listing information can normally be found at the UCLA Registrar's website by selecting Spring Quarter, and Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences.


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 UCLA in May 2015. The first five offerings of the course were in Spring 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. The course is tightly connected to SETI efforts at UCLA. To our knowledge, the UCLA SETI course is the first full-length university SETI course in existence.