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Jill C. Tarter, director of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, headlines three upcoming talks sponsored by the Physics Club. All will be held in Gagnon Lecture Hall (room 100), Hugel Science Center, and will include free pizza and soda.

Megan Daly ’02, Ajay Hirani ’04,Salman Mujahid ’04, and Dan Swarr ’03 will describe their summer research experiences noon Friday, Sept. 28.

Andrew Kortyna, assistant professor of physics, will speak on “Electron attachment to molecules: How controlling a molecule’s internal degrees of freedom effects electron-molecule interactions,” noon Friday, Oct. 19. Kortyna received a Ph.D. from Wesleyan University and have been a researcher at the Universitat Kaiserslautern in Germany and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He also has taught at Bates College and been a National Science Foundation Awards for Integration of Research and Education Fellow at Colby College. Kortyna’s research is in atomic and molecular physics, particularly the application of laser spectroscopic techniques to the study of atomic and molecular scattering phenomena.

Tarter will speak on “SETI: Science Fact, Not Fiction,” noon Friday, Nov. 16. She received her undergraduate degree in engineering physics from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley, where her major field of study was theoretical high-energy astrophysics. As a graduate student at Berkeley, she became involved in the beginning stages of a small search for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilizations using the Hat Creek Observatory 85-foot telescope. That project, SERENDIP, underwent many stops and starts and overhauls (and is still ongoing), and it provided a natural introduction to the newly formed Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Program Office at NASA Ames Research Center, where Tarter was pursuing an NRC resident associateship.

As a principal investigator for the non-profit SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., Tarter served as project scientist for NASA’s High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS) until its termination by Congress in October 1993. As such, she had the opportunity to meld together old and new engineering skills with knowledge of the observable universe, in order to conduct and plan for thorough observations of the sky through a set of narrow band and pulse sensitive filters never before systematically employed by astronomers.

On Sept. 15, 1997, the Board of Trustees of the SETI Institute appointed Tarter to a new endowed position at the SETI Institute: the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI.

Tarter travels globally to present lectures and papers at numerous scientific symposia and colloquia. She has published scores of technical articles, has been elected to many professional societies, and has served on a number of scientific advisory committees.

She has a strong interest in educating the next generation of scientists. She was principal investigator for a National Science Foundation-funded award-winning series of supplementary Teachers Guides on Life in the Universe for middle and elementary schools. Currently she is principal investigator on an NSF grant in collaboration with colleagues at NASA Ames Research Center, the California Academy of Sciences, and San Francisco State University to produce a ninth-grade integrated science curriculum called Voyages Through Time that is based on the overarching theme of evolution.

In September 1989, Tarter received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to the field of exobiology, and in particular to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, by Women in Aerospace, a professional association in Washington, DC. In March 1993 she received two Public Service Medals from NASA and a Group Achievement Award for her contributions to NASA’s HRMS Project. In February 1997 Tarter received the Chabot Observatory Person of the Year Award, and in November 1998 she received the Women of Achievement Award, Science and Technology category, presented by the Women’s Fund and the San Jose Mercury News.

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