Skip Navigation

No. But you can earn your PhD in history by writing your dissertation on how the United States government handles unidentified flying objects (UFOs), or unexplained aerial phenomena (UAP) if you want to sound fancy. That’s exactly what retired history professor, author, and UFO expert David Jacobs ’68, PhD’73 did, and it was only the second UFO-related doctorate awarded anywhere. Jacobs has several books explaining his belief that aliens exist and already walk among us, but other Badgers like Maggie Turnbull ’98 are still looking up for extraterrestrial life. An astrobiologist by trade, Turnbull worked for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute during grad school. For four years, she mapped out stars that were stable enough to support life and billions of years of evolution and compiled the Catalog of Potentially Habitable Stellar Systems. Lena Vincent PhD’22, another UW-educated astrobiologist and a research fellow at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is using her training to discover the origins of life and to seek out microbial life on other planets and oceanic moons, like Jupiter’s Europa. (See Vincent’s explanation of Europa’s promising features on TikTok.) The UW doesn’t have its own Area 51 (allegedly), so Badgers can’t directly study flying saucers and little green men, and you can’t major in alien studies. But students are certainly free to use their scientific and liberal arts know-how to explore the bounds of terrestrial and extraterrestrial knowledge.

More From Ask Flamingle HQ