Whispers From Other Worlds: A Lecture & Discussion

NASA’s Search for Life in the Cosmos

Featuring Thomas Zurbuchen and Nadia Drake

Sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Astrobiology and Science Communication programs

On April 17, Thomas Zurbuchen, Retired Director of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, and Nadia Drake, Science Journalist, will speak on the exciting mystery of life beyond Earth. The lecture will first frame the discussion of looking for extraterrestrial life in the context of the famed 1961 Drake equation, a framework that connects physical, chemical and biological processes with the development of detectable civilizations within our own galaxy. The speakers will then cover three ways in which NASA’s Science program focuses on identifying signatures of life elsewhere in the universe.

The lecture will be followed by a moderated discussion with time for questions.

Date: Monday, April 17, 2023
Time: 6:30 – 8 PM
Location: The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Dr., Santa Cruz CA

Free registration: RSVP here.

About the Speakers:

black and white Portrait of Thomas ZurbuchenThomas H. Zurbuchen, known in the space community as “Dr. Z,” is the longest continually serving Head of Science at NASA, a post he held from October 2016 through the end of 2022. As NASA Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, he was responsible for all aspects of NASA leadership in space science.  During his tenure NASA launched 37 science missions and stated 54, including the James Webb Space Telescope, two Mars landings, the Ingenuity helicopter, the Parker Solar Probe, and the DART mission.  Thomas also conceived and led the Earth System Observatory, an advanced multi-platform observatory that creates a 3D holistic view of the Earth, from bedrock to atmosphere.

He is a Member of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, recipient of the NASA Outstanding Service Medal,  Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and recipient of the Presidential Rank Award, Distinguished Level.

Black and white photo of Nadia Drake smiling at the cameraNadia Drake will be the Senior Physics Editor at Quanta magazine starting April 3. She specializes in covering astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science, as well as anything involving jungles and spiders.  Her byline has also appeared in National Geographic, The Atlantic, Nature, The New York Times, Science News, Wired, and Scientific American, for which she recently led coverage of NASA’s Artemis I moon mission.

From an early age, Nadia has been a keen observer of the search for life beyond Earth—a field that is grounded in the early work of her father, Frank Drake.  Now, somewhat serendipitously, much of her journalistic work focuses on astrobiology, the search for life’s origins on Earth and beyond.  She’s also a member of NASA’s panel that is investigating Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP).

Nadia has won many awards for her work, including recognition from the American Astronomical Society’s divisions of planetary science and high-energy astrophysics. She is a UCSC alumnus graduating with a graduate certificate in Science Communication.