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Astrobiology Forum

The Astrobiology Forum is a group of external leaders asked to advise NASA U on innovative research opportunities where science and engineering leaders can work with outstanding starting researchers. Small teams and round table groups explore cross-disciplinary ideas with potential to evolve into collaborative research proposals.

Larry Caroff Larry Caroff

received his BS in Engineering Sciences from Swarthmore College and his PhD in Physics from Cornell University. At NASA Ames Research Center he continued his research in statistical mechanics, adding work on planetary interiors and later on the nature of quasars, relativistic outflows, and clouds in the interstellar medium. As part of a new airborne infrared astronomy he made many observing flights, first on NASA’s Lear Jet Observatory, later on the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, to study stellar nurseries, molecular clouds, planets and comets.

Later he headed the large research branch that focused on infrared astrophysics and atmospheric spectroscopy and helped to set up and lead NASA’s emerging program in airborne and space infrared astronomy. He was instrumental in starting NASA’s next generation airborne observatory-SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for IR Astronomy), a 100" telescope in a modified Boeing 747, and also the last of the Great Observatories, SIRTF (Space IR Telescope Facility), an 85cm liquid He cooled telescope, that will revolutionize (yet again) how we view our Universe. He helped start the NASA Astrobiology Institute, then took over as program manager of SOFIA, which is expected to begin astronomy flights in 2005.

He has continued to work on NASA-related efforts, including organizing and leading studies on assembly of large telescopes in space, helping NASA to find a new way to set investment priorities for new technologies, and working to enhance NASA flight projects and to develop new project leaders.

David W. Deamer David W. Deamer

is professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His undergraduate B.Sc. degree was in Chemistry, at Duke University, Durham NC (1961) and his Ph.D. in Physiological Chemistry from the Ohio State University School of Medicine (1965).

Following post-doctoral research at UC Berkeley, he joined the faculty at UC Davis in 1967, then moved his laboratory to UC Santa Cruz in 1994. Dr. Deamer’s research concerns the role of membranes in the evolutionary events leading up to the origin of cellular life.

In collaborative studies with other research groups, Deamer has demonstrated that membranes can assemble from a variety of organic molecules based on hydrocarbon chains. If such self-assembled membranes preceded the origin of life, it seems reasonable that cell-like structures were available on the prebiotic Earth, and that they provided a home for more complex molecules like proteins and nucleic acids. Such systems then evolved into the first forms of true life on the Earth, similar to bacteria and other microorganisms that still exist today. > Web site link

Stuart Kauffman Stuart Kauffman

received a first B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1961, and then was awarded a Marshall Scholarship and attended Magdalen College, Oxford University from 1961-1963, and obtained a second B.A. He received his M.D. degree from the University of California/San Francisco in 1968, winning the Borden Prize for Research (1968) and the Weiner Gold Medal of the American Cybernetic Society (1971). After an Internship and Postdoctoral Fellowship in genetics in Cincinnati, he joined the Department of Theoretical Biology, University of Chicago in 1969. From 1973 to 1975, he was in the Public Health Service at the National Cancer Institute. He joined the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania in 1975 as Associate Professor and became Professor in 1980. Since 1985, he has served as a consultant to Los Alamos National Laboratory, and from 1986 to 1998 as Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, where he is presently an external professor and on the Science Advisory Board. In 1996, Dr. Kauffman formed Bios Group LP, in partnership with Ernst and Young.

Major areas of research include Developmental Genetics, Theoretical Biology, Evolution, and the Origin of Life. He was awarded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship 1987-92, the Gold Medal of the Academia Lincea Rome and The Herbert A. Simon Award 2000. Currently, besides his Santa Fe Institute affiliation, he is also Research Professor in Cell Biology and Physiology at the School of Medicine, University of New Mexico, Affiliate in Neurobiology at Montana State University, and Research Professor at the Krasnow Institute, George Mason University. He has published three books with Oxford University Press: The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (1993), At Home in the Universe (1995) and Investigations (2000).

Jill Tarter Jill Tarter

holds the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and is 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.

She has published scores of technical articles, has been elected to many professional societies, and has served on a number of scientific advisory committees. 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).


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