By Gail Jacobs
Astronomer Dr. Jill Tarter is Director of the SETI Institute's Center for SETI Research, and also holder of the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). She is one of the few researchers to have devoted her career to hunting for signs of sentient beings elsewhere, and there are few aspects of this field that have not been affected by her work. Jill was the lead for Project Phoenix, a decade-long SETI scrutiny of about 750 nearby star systems, using telescopes in Australia, West Virginia and Puerto Rico. While no clearly extraterrestrial signal was found, this was the most comprehensive targeted search for artificially generated cosmic signals ever undertaken. Among her numerous distinguished awards and recognitions, Jill received the 2009 TED Prize, which will empower Jill and her team to take SETI research to an entirely new and broader level.
Being as much of an icon of SETI as Jill is, perhaps it is not surprising that the Jodie Foster character in the movie Contact is largely inspired by this real-life researcher.
Listen to Jill's talk, presented at TEDxUSC 2011:
TEDxUSC - Dr. Jill Tarter - The Search for Cosmic Company
To learn more about Jill, visit her Huffington Post Q&A.