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Franck Marchis Receives 2024 Carl Sagan Center Director's Award at Drake Awards Ceremony

Franck Marchis Receives 2024 Carl Sagan Center Director's Award at Drake Awards Ceremony


Mountain View, CA – May 23, 2024 – The SETI Institute recently hosted the prestigious 2024 Drake Awards, celebrating exceptional contributions to SETI and astrobiology. Dr. Andrew Siemion was honored for his pioneering work in SETI and radio astronomy alongside the 2024 SETI Forward recipients. Dr. Franck Marchis, a planetary astronomer known for research on exoplanets and asteroids with moons, was awarded the Carl Sagan Center Director's Award. Marchis co-founded and is Chief Scientific Officer for Unistellar, fostering a global community of over 12,000 citizen astronomers. He is also a core member of the SETI Institute's outreach team, hosting the weekly social media livestream SETI Live and the public lecture series SETI Talks. He frequently engages with leading media outlets to explain complex science to the public.

Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the SETI Institute's Carl Sagan Center, remarked, "Each year, we honor one of our scientists for their accomplishments. This award celebrates their scientific excellence and dedication to education, outreach, and service. Franck's passion and joy for his work are truly inspiring. One of my dreams is to see people around the world as happy as he is, committed to science, education, and outreach."

Upon accepting the award, Marchis said, "First contact with extraterrestrial life is a mystery we cannot predict, but by exploring every corner of the universe with unwavering curiosity, we inch closer to that moment of profound discovery."

The evening also recognized Reed Spurling with the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Award of Excellence. Spurling, an aerospace engineering and planetary science student at the University of Arizona, worked with Dr. Virginia Gulick on a project to determine when giant floods could have carved Osuga Valles, an ancient channel system on Mars. They mapped impact craters, then used statistical models to estimate the age of the channel system from the number of impact craters in and around it. The results indicated when liquid water could have flowed over the surface of this region of Mars, potentially creating temporary life-supporting environments. 

“A few weeks into the SETI Institute’s REU program last summer, I realized that I had found my people,” said Spurling. The SETI Institute’s welcoming community and collaborative environment made it a joy to do research there, and broadened my understanding of what it means to be a scientist.”

Dr. Matthew Tiscareno, Senior Research Scientist and Site Director of the SETI Institute's REU summer internship program said, "The SETI Institute REU Award of Excellence honors the member of our select group of research interns who gave the most outstanding presentation at the end of our summer program Reed did a wonderful job of bringing to life the summer work they did to map gullies in a particular region of Mars.  We look forward to seeing Reed carry forward their time with us at the SETI Institute into their continuing career."

The complete list of 2024 Drake Awards recipients includes:

  • 2024 Drake Award: Dr. Andrew Siemion
  • Carl Sagan Center Director's Award: Dr. Franck Marchis
  • SETI Forward Awards: Dana Yaptangco and Róża Okoń
  • REU Award of Excellence: Reed Spurling

Dr. Moiya McTier hosted the gala event.

About the SETI Institute

Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization dedicated to understanding the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the universe and sharing that knowledge with the world. Their research spans the physical and biological sciences and leverages data analytics, machine learning, and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute partners with industry, academia, and government agencies, including NASA and the National Science Foundation.

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Rebecca McDonald
Director of Communications
SETI Institute




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