The second speaker for this season of the Harker Speaker Series will be Dr. Jill Tarter, director of the Center for Search for Extraterrestrial Institute (SETI) Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. Tarter will appear on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m., at Nichols Hall on the upper school campus, and will give a talk titled, “Citizen Science and the Search for ET.”
A distinguished graduate of Cornell University with a degree in engineering physics, Tarter received her master’s degree and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley. Much of her work in the search for extraterrestrial life helped inspire Jodie Foster’s character in the 1997 film “Contact.”
Tarter later went to work for NASA’s SETI program, and worked as a project scientist on the High Resolution Microwave Survey. She continued her work searching for extraterrestrial life after the NASA SETI program ended in 1993, working to build funding from private sources so that the research could continue.
Today, Tarter is a member of the management board for the Allen Telescope Array. This joint project between SETI and U.C. Berkeley’s Radio Astronomy Laboratory will search the radio universe for astrophysical emissions and greatly expedite the search for radio emissions from distant technologies.
A well-known figure in the scientific community, Tarter has earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace, two public service medals from NASA, the Chabot Observatory’s Person of the Year Award and more. In 2002, she became an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow, and was named one of the most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2004.
In addition to her scientific research, Tarter has also been involved in several key educational projects, including the “Life in the Universe” series for grades 3-9 and “Voyages through Time,” a high school science series focusing on the theme of evolution.