Are We Alone Lecture Series

Are We Alone Lecture Series

Back by popular demand, UCR’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and its Astrobiology Center return to UCR Palm Desert as sponsors of the ‘Are We Alone Lecture’ Series. This season we will be treated to leading experts who will speak on far-reaching topics at the cutting edge of exploration for life beyond Earth and our solar system. 

Please join us for these free, in-person lectures, and fasten your seatbelts for talks that are guaranteed to reach beyond your imaginations for the possibilities of distant life and how we might find it.


Investigating Planetary Habitability as Part of the Search for Life in Icy Ocean Moons 

6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024

Back by popular demand, UCR’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and its Astrobiology Center return to UCR Palm Desert as sponsors of the ‘Are We Alone Lecture’ Series.  

About the speaker for our first lecture: Steven Vance is an astrobiologist and geophysicist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, studying the workings of icy ocean worlds. After obtaining his PhD in Geophysics and Astrobiology from the University of Washington, in Seattle, Dr. Vance came to JPL as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. He is currently supervisor for Planetary Interiors and Geophysics Group. Steve studies the interiors of icy bodies like Jupiter's moon, Europa, drawing primarily on expertise in the chemistry and thermodynamics of materials at high pressures. Steve's work address questions of ocean composition, dynamics, and habitability through simulations of icy world ocean chemistry in the laboratory, coupled with theoretical models of fluid circulation in deep oceans. 

Mars Sample Return

6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024

Don't miss this talk by Rachel Kronyak, systems engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. This lecture will begin with an intro of the motivation for returning samples from Mars and how they plan to bring the samples back to Earth. She will also discuss the crucial first step of Mars Sample Return — selecting and collecting the samples, which the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is actively pursuing — as well as how they perform science operations with Perseverance, what the sample collection looks like so far, and the path ahead. 

In Search of Strange New Worlds: Exoplanet Biosignatures and Prospects for Their Detection 

6 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Learn about the search for strange new worlds from Michaela Leung, a fourth-year PhD candidate at UCR, where she works on analysis of novel biosignature candidates. Her research primarily uses integrated photochemical and spectral models to understand atmospheric conditions and explore opportunities for their detection using current and near-future telescopes. Her talk will cover a survey of biosignatures and prospects for detecting them in the near future, including exciting planetary systems and technological advancements.