Astrobiology (general)

UCLA Conference Brings Together World-Renowned Scientists to Address ‘Astrobiology: Life Among the Stars’

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
University of California - Los Angeles
May 11, 2005
Filed under , , ,
UCLA Conference Brings Together World-Renowned Scientists to Address ‘Astrobiology: Life Among the Stars’
Early Earth

A UCLA symposium on Friday, May 13, will feature internationally renowned scientists addressing “Astrobiology: Life Among the Stars.”

Topics will include the search for planets and life beyond our solar system, the implications if life is discovered on other planets, and latest results from the Mars Rovers.

Free to the public, the 16th annual symposium sponsored by UCLA’s IGPP Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life will be held in UCLA’s Schoenberg Auditorium (near Hilgard and Westholme avenues) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is non-technical, and designed for a general audience.

Participants at the symposium will be:

Daniel S. Goldin holds the distinction of being NASA’s longest-serving administrator, an appointee of three U.S. presidents. He initiated NASA’s Origin Program to study how our solar system formed, how life on Earth began and to explore whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. It was his vision to search for Earth-like planets within a hundred light-years of our own; he has been a vigorous proponent for exploration to determine if water and life have existed elsewhere in the solar system; and it was under his direction that repairs in orbit were first made to the Hubble Space Telescope. Currently, he is a senior fellow at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, where he is engaged in the development of biologically inspired robots and computers, and founder of the Intellisis Corp., which focuses on high-tech consulting and biologically based technologies.

David J. Stevenson serves as the George Van Osdol Professor of Planetary Science at CalTech. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship (1971–76), the Urey Prize of the American Astronomical Society (1984), and both the Whipple Award (1994) and the Hess Medal (1998) of the American Geophysical Union. His research focuses on the internal structure and evolution of planets, the application of fluid dynamics and magnetohydrodynamics to the understanding of such structure and evolution, and the origin of solar systems.

Steven W. Squyres is the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, where he has been a faculty member since 1986. Since his days as a graduate student associate of the Voyager Mission Science Team, for more than two decades he has played an active role in 16 space flight missions — to comets, asteroids and solar system planets — currently serving as a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Cassini Mission to Saturn, co-investigator on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission and principal investigator of the recent Mars Exploration Rover Mission. His research interests center on the robotic exploration and photometric and spectroscopic properties of planetary surfaces, and the geophysics, geochemistry and tectonics of Mars, Venus and icy satellites.

Charles Elachi is director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and vice president of CalTech. He is co-investigator on the Rosetta Comet Nucleus Sounder experiment and team leader of the Cassini Titan Radar experiment investigating Saturn and its surroundings. Principal investigator on numerous NASA research-and-development studies and flight projects, he is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and recipient of NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal and two Outstanding Leadership Medals.

Lynne Hillenbrand is an assistant professor of astronomy at CalTech. She held postdoctoral fellowships at UC Berkeley and CalTech; in the latter position, she studied star formation at the extremes: in its earliest stages and at its lowest masses. Her research has been directed most recently towards understanding the evolution of circumstellar disks and the process of planet formation in these disks.

Jon M. Jenkins is co-investigator on NASA Ames’ Kepler Discovery Mission, a project designed to search for Earth-like planets far beyond our solar system. In 1992, he was appointed a principal investigator at the SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Northern California, where he has served as a principal investigator on NASA’s Pioneer Venus Guest Investigator Program (1992–94), the Venus Data Analysis Program (1994–95) and the Planetary Atmospheres Program (1995–97, 1998–2000). As co-investigator of the Kepler Mission, Jenkins is responsible for designing and developing the heart of the system, a signal processing chain that will survey some 170,000 Sun-like stars to detect transiting Earth-like planets where life may possibly exist.

Edward L. Wright has been a professor of astronomy at UCLA since 1981. Since 1978, he has been a member of the Science Working Group for the COsmic Background Explorer (COBE), an Earth-orbiting satellite designed to measure radiation produced by the Big Bang. An expert on cosmology and infrared astronomy, he currently is interdisciplinary scientist on the Science Working Group of the Spitzer Space Telescope, a project with which he has been involved since 1976, as well as co-investigator on the Microwave Anisotropy Probe, a mission launched in 2001 as a follow-up to the COBE discovery of fluctuations in the early universe and designed to observe the formative stages of superclusters of galaxies. He is the principal investigator on the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, scheduled for launch in 2008.

For the symposium schedule, please see http://www.igpp.ucla.edu/cseol/.

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