SETI Institute Names New Chief Alien Life Hunter

A new director has stepped up to lead the Carl Sagan Centerfor Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, taking the reins fromprevious long-time director and SETI pioneer, Frank Drake.

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

Previously, Morrison was Professor and Vice-Chancellor forResearch at the University of Hawaii. His research on small bodies in the solarsystem has gained him international recognition, and he has published over 155technical 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 dedicatedto research, exploration and education in the fieldof astrobiology, dates back to 1988.

"The SETI Institute has partnered with scientists atNASA Ames in a teaming arrangement that has greatly benefited bothorganizations," said Morrison in a statement. "The Institute playedan especially important role in the development of the new multidisciplinaryfield of astrobiology. I always hoped that I would eventually find a way towork more directly with them."

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

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

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

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Denise Chow
NBC News science writer

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.