Chair Emeritus for SETI Research
Former Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research
Former Director, Center for SETI Research
Jill Tarter held the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence)
and is the former Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View,
California. Tarter received her Bachelor of Engineering Physics Degree with Distinction from
Cornell University and her Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of
California, Berkeley. She served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High
Resolution Microwave Survey, and has conducted numerous observational programs at radio
observatories worldwide. Since the termination of funding for NASA’s SETI program in 1993,
she has served in a leadership role to secure private funding to continue the exploratory science.
Currently, she serves on the management board for the Allen Telescope Array, a joint project
between the SETI Institute and the UC Berkeley Radio Astronomy Laboratory. When this
innovative array of 350 6-m antennas begins operations at the UC’s Hat Creek Radio
Observatory, it will simultaneously survey the radio universe for known and unexpected sources
of astrophysical emissions, and speed up the search for radio emissions from other distant
technologies by orders of magnitude.
Tarter’s work has brought her wide recognition in the scientific community, including the
Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace, two Public Service Medals from
NASA, Chabot Observatory’s Person of the Year award (1997), Women of Achievement Award
in the Science and Technology category by the Women’s Fund and the San Jose Mercury News
(1998), and the Tesla Award of Technology at the Telluride Tech Festival (2001). She was
elected an AAAS Fellow in 2002 and a California Academy of Sciences Fellow in 2003 (and
CAS Scientific Trustee in 2007). In 2004 Time Magazine named her one of the Time 100 most
influential people in the world, and in 2005 Tarter was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science
Popularization at Wonderfest, the biannual San Francisco Bay Area Festival of Science. In 2006
Tarter became a National Advisory Board member for the Center for Inquiry’s Office of Public
Policy in Washington, DC. She is also a Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of
the Paranormal (CSICOP) Fellow.
Tarter is deeply involved in the education of future citizens and scientists. In addition to her
scientific leadership at NASA and SETI Institute, Tarter has been the Principal Investigator for
two curriculum development projects funded by NSF, NASA, and others. The first, the Life in
the Universe series, created 6 science teaching guides for grades 3-9 (published 1994-96). Her
second project, Voyages Through Time, is an integrated high school science curriculum on the
fundamental theme of evolution in six modules: Cosmic Evolution, Planetary Evolution, Origin
of Life, Evolution of Life, Hominid Evolution and Evolution of Technology (published 2003).
Tarter is a frequent speaker for science teacher meetings and at museums and science centers,
bringing her commitment to science and education to both teachers and the public. Many people
are now familiar with her work as portrayed by Jodie Foster in the movie Contact.