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Empowering the Next Generation of Cosmic Explorers with SETI Forward

Empowering the Next Generation of Cosmic Explorers with SETI Forward

SETI Forward 2023 Recipients

January 11, 2024, Mountain View, CA -- The SETI Institute is announcing the 2023 SETI Forward Award recipients: Dana Yaptangco and Róża Okoń. Now in its 5th year, SETI Forward is a beacon for promising young scientists. Established by Lew Levy, SETI Forward committee founder and member of its Council of Advisors, this award nurtures talent, providing scholarship funds to aspiring researchers. The goal is to connect these students with opportunities that foster their passion for SETI and astrobiology, guiding them toward meaningful careers.

"Year after year, the SETI Forward award continues to attract exceptional talent from diverse backgrounds," said Levy. "In 2023, we proudly recognize Dana and Róża, two extraordinary women from different continents, contributing to the quest for life beyond Earth."

Dana Yaptangco: Unveiling Megastructures with Machine Learning

Dana Yaptangco
Dana Yaptangco.

Dana, a student at the University of Florida, conducted her internship at the University of California, Berkeley. Advised by Dr. Ann Marie Cody and Dr. Daniel Giles, Dana developed a machine learning-enabled pipeline to detect anomalous patterns that could indicate the presence of megastructures around stars. Her findings have unveiled the detectability of megastructures in various shapes, providing valuable insights for ongoing research.

"I am truly honored to be recognized for my work in SETI," said Dana. "This scholarship provides an incredible opportunity to connect with inspiring researchers around the world. I am grateful to be part of this wonderful community dedicated to exploring humanity's intrinsic questions."

Róża Okoń: Decrypting the Secrets of Adenosine Isomers

Róża Okoń
Róża Okoń.

Róża, a graduate of the University of Warsaw, Poland, currently pursuing her master's at the University of Barcelona, delved into the photochemical differences between two isomers of adenosine during her project at Harvard University and Wrocław University of Science and Technology. Awarded the 'Gold Medal of Chemistry' in Poland, Róża demonstrated the higher photostability of the biological isomer, shedding light on the potential role of UV light in molecular evolution on early Earth.

"Working on this project was fascinating, not only in terms of discovering the unknown but also due to the opportunity to meet people of science from around the world," says Róża. "Every opportunity to meet people from the field opens a new door for a young researcher and eventually creates a unique set of experiences that build us as future scientists."

Building Bridges and Fostering Excellence: SETI Forward's Impact

The SETI Forward award, conceived through Lew Levy's collaboration with SETI Institute trustee Dane Glasgow, aims to bridge the gap between undergraduate internships, graduate school, and careers. By providing stipends for research collaborations or conference participation, SETI Forward empowers young scientists to continue their exploration of cosmic mysteries.

The diverse panel overseeing the SETI Forward Fund administration selected this year's recipients. Undergraduates at accepted institutions participating in mentored internships are eligible to apply.

The Cosmic Journey Continues: 2023 SETI Forward Recipients to be Honored in May 2024

Dana Yaptangco and Róża Okoń will be officially honored at the next Drake Awards event in May 2024.

About the SETI Institute
Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to lead humanity’s quest to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the Universe and to share that knowledge with the world. Our research encompasses the physical and biological sciences and leverages expertise in data analytics, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia and government agencies, including NASA and NSF.

Contact information
Rebecca McDonald
Director of Communications
SETI Institute



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