Eliot Gillum

Eliot Gillum
Director of Optical SETI Program
Degree/Major: 
B.S., Computer Science
Discipline: 
Engineering
Per ardua ad astra

Eliot joined the SETI Institute in 2015 to develop a new type of Optical SETI instrument.  Prior to that, he was the Director of Engineering for Hotmail and Outlook.com at Microsoft.  He did scientific computing, signal processing, and worked at a multimedia startup before joining Microsoft.

Passionate about computers and technology his whole life, Eliot graduated Cornell University with a degree in Computer Science in 1999.  Prophetically, that final year, he took an elective astronomy course called Life in the Universe, and first met Dr. Frank Drake who gave a guest lecture.  The following year, he attended an alumni talk by Dr. Jill Tarter and was permanently hooked on the study of life and the universe, particularly as embodied by the SETI Institute.

The bulk of his time is spent on every aspect of the development of this new OSETI telescope, from optical design, to candidate detection coding and data reduction, to vendor selection, to funding.  Support from other Institute scientists, like Dr. Gerry Harp, along with Eliot's background in software, distributed systems, automation, and heuristic design, make this possible.  This diversity of work is as exciting as it is challenging.

With the number of habitable exoplanets in our galaxy alone now confidently established as "an embarassment of riches," Eliot has a hard time believing the remaining terms of the Drake Equation are zero, so the scientific hypothesis under investigation is--for him--not so much "Is there life out there?" but instead "When, if ever, will we find it?"  In addition, SETI has unimaginable potential to unify the human race.  The outcome may be unknown but the journey of discovery, of being able to scan the skies and classify all that is known in order to identify either new science or ET, is itself an incredible prize.

Eliot is also the SETI chair of the Science Council, where he enjoys contributing to overall SETI strategy and leveraging his managment background to improve life at the Institute.

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