Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, commonly know as SETI, recently agreed to partner with USC to “pursue the study of the living universe.”
The SETI Institute is a non-profit organization that performs research and has a center for education and public outreach.
The collaboration will be effective immediately. As a result, USC will gain access to the Institute to embark on joint projects. According to Randolph Hall, Vice President of Research, involvement is expected from physics, astronomy, biology, electrical engineering, computer science, cinema and the Keck School of Medicine.
“USC and the SETI Institute have common interests in understanding life in all its forms, as well as communicating with students and the public on exciting scientific topics,” Hall wrote in an e-mail. “We are looking forward to starting joint research programs, education and internship opportunities for students, and creation of multimedia for science education.”
The idea of a collaboration emerged three months ago when Dr. David Agus, the director of the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and the USC Westside Prostate Cancer Center, met with Jill Tarter, the Director of the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif. at a conference. There, they talked about a possible collaboration between USC and SETI.
Although the exact details of the collaboration are not yet known, Hall and Dr. Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at SETI, see benefits for both USC and SETI.
Although it is still in discussions, people from the SETI Institute might come teach classes at USC.
Research opportunities for the faculty will also be prevalent, and, if things go according to plan, so will undergraduate summer internships.
“There are a lot of things we do that might be of interest to some of the students and some of the faculty at USC,” Shostak said. “We’re also interested in the stuff that you do in film and television and that sort of thing because we do a lot of outreach here; there are television crews here all the time and it will be useful to have, for example, material made that illustrates the kind of work we do and whatever we’re doing with USC.”
One of the major shared interests is looking for microbial life in otherwise inhospitable environments.
For some students, the prospect of working with SETI is exciting.
“It would be really cool especially since I am a computer science major and SETI does things like listen to noise from the universe and try to find intelligent signals within that noise,” said Nakul Joshi, a freshman majoring in computer science.