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SETI Institute Names New Chief Alien Life Hunter

Frank Drake named alien hunter
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A new director has stepped up to lead the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, taking the reins from previous long-time director and SETI pioneer, Frank Drake.

The new chief, David Morrison, was appropriately the first doctoral student of famed astronomer Carl Sagan. In addition to his new directorial position at the SETI Institute, Morrison retains (part time) his previous position at NASA Ames Research Center, located in Moffett Field, Calif., where he is Director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute and Senior Scientist for Astrobiology.

Previously, Morrison was Professor and Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Hawaii. His research on small bodies in the solar system has gained him international recognition, and he has published over 155 technical papers and a dozen books.

Morrison has long been a supporter of the SETI Institute, and his history with the non-profit scientific organization that is dedicated to research, exploration and education in the field of astrobiology, dates back to 1988.

"The SETI Institute has partnered with scientists at NASA Ames in a teaming arrangement that has greatly benefited both organizations," said Morrison in a statement. "The Institute played an especially important role in the development of the new multidisciplinary field of astrobiology. I always hoped that I would eventually find a way to work more directly with them."

At the Carl Sagan Center, researchers focus on tasks that range from observing and modeling the precursors of life in the far reaches of outer space, to studies of Earth, in an attempt to understand morea bout how life began and how its many diverse forms have survived and evolved.

"There are many outstanding space scientists and astrobiologists in the Carl Sagan Center, and our leadership role in the study of life in the universe is sure to grow," Morrison said.

The Center's former director Frank Drake is retiring and will join the SETI Institute Board of Directors.

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Denise Chow is a former staff writer who then worked as assistant managing editor at Live Science before moving to NBC News as a science reporter, where she focuses on general science and climate change. She spent two years with, writing about rocket launches and covering NASA's final three space shuttle missions, before joining the Live Science team in 2013. A Canadian transplant, Denise has a bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto, and a master's degree in journalism from New York University. At NBC News, Denise covers general science and climate change.