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SETI Institute director Jill Tarter stepping down after 35 years of extraterrestrial research

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Astronomer Jill Tarter, one of the most influential people in extraterrestrial intelligence research, is stepping down as the SETI Institute's Research Center director.

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The SETI Institute, dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, will soon be continuing under new management. Astronomer Jill Tarter, who worked with extraterrestrial research at NASA in the 1970s before helping to found the private SETI Institute in 1984, is stepping down as the Institute's Research Center director. Instead, Tarter will shift her focus to securing funding for future SETI projects, which have recently been suffering from financial difficulties.

Tarter has been hugely influential, both for her research and as the public face of SETI. Previously, she helped lead Project Phoenix, a decade-long search for intelligence in the form of alien radio signals. Her work was also a primary influence behind Carl Sagan's novel Contact, and a character based on Tarter was portrayed by Jodie Foster in the later film adaptation. She has earned awards from NASA, TED, and many other groups.

Gerry Harp, a physicist at the SETI Institute, will succeed Tarter as research director. Tarter's work, meanwhile, will be celebrated at this year's SETIcon, held from June 22nd to 24th in Silicon Valley.