Mountain View, CA – Victoria Meadows wants to know what life beyond Earth looks like. How can we tell whether a neighboring exoplanet located 4 or 20 or 100 lightyears away from Earth is able to sustain life? At the NASA Astrobiology Institute Virtual Planetary Laboratory, Victoria and her team are developing computer models to understand how stars and planets interact to enable a planet to support life, and how even primitive life might impact its planetary environment in ways we could detect and interpret over interstellar distances.
On June 14, 2018, the SETI Institute will recognize Victoria S. Meadows with the 2018 Drake Award in celebration of her contributions to the field of astrobiology and her work as a researcher, leader and inspiration for everyone working in her field.
The SETI Institute’s prestigious award is named for Dr. Frank Drake, the pioneering astronomer who founded the modern field of experimental searches for intelligent civilizations among the stars, and the first President of the SETI Institute’s Board of Trustees. He is also the creator of the Drake Equation, acknowledged by many to be a roadmap for astrobiology, or the study of life in the Universe. Previous winners of the Drake Award include Charles Townes, a Nobel Prize winner for his work on developing masers and lasers, and William Borucki, the Principal Investigator for NASA’s Kepler mission, which has discovered thousands of exoplanets, including many with the possibility of sustaining life. Meadows will be the first woman to receive the Drake Award.
The Science Advisory Board of the SETI Institute, comprised of distinguished leaders from across the scientific community, provides strategic guidance to advance the research activities of the Institute. The Advisory Board also has the responsibility to nominate Drake Award recipients to the Board of Trustees, who then confirm the nominee.
“Vikki Meadows is a truly outstanding awardee for the Drake Award,” said John Rummel, Chair of the SETI Institute’s Science Advisory Board. “She is a leader in the scientific estimation of environments on extrasolar planets, and in the search for signs of habitability and life. As a professor and mentor, she has infused others with her enthusiasm and research expertise — leading from the front.”
Meadows is a Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Astrobiology Graduate Program at the University of Washington. She also leads the interdisciplinary NASA Astrobiology Institute Virtual Planetary Laboratory. With the overarching goal to determine whether a distant extrasolar planet could or does support life, her research interests include the theoretical modeling of terrestrial planetary environments to understand their habitability, the generation and detectability of planetary biosignatures and their false positives, and solar system planetary observations.
“It is an honor to recognize Professor Meadows for her innumerable contributions to astrobiology and for her inspiring leadership to students and colleagues alike,” said Bill Diamond, President and CEO of the SETI Institute. “Vikki is pioneering our understanding of planetary habitability and the development of technologies and methodologies for biosignature detection and we are delighted to name her as the 2018 recipient of the Drake Award,” said Diamond.
“Over the past 18 years the Virtual Planetary Laboratory has transcended interdisciplinary boundaries to inform the upcoming telescopic search for habitable exoplanets and life beyond the Solar System”, said Meadows. “Astrobiology addresses questions so big that they can’t be answered by a single researcher, or even a single field. Instead, it takes a community with a staggering breadth of expertise and techniques, and the willingness to work with and learn from each other. It has been my very great honor to lead this spectacular team of interdisciplinary researchers, and a privilege to engage in such exciting and impactful research!”
Previously, Meadows was a research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an associate research scientist at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology. She has been a scientist for the NASA EPOXI mission, the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera-2, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. She is currently a member of the Science and Technology Definition Team for the Large UV Optical Infrared Survey Telescope concept, and the Chair of NASA’s Exoplanet Analysis Group. She is a recipient of the JPL Lew Allen Award for scientific leadership, several NASA Group Achievement Awards, and was a National Academy of Sciences - Frontiers of Science Kavli Fellow. She currently serves on both the National Academy of Sciences Committees for Astrobiology and Exoplanets, and the NASA Astrophysics Advisory Council. She earned her Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Sydney.
Meadows will officially receive the Drake Award on June 14, 2018 at a public event to be held at SRI International in Menlo Park, CA. In addition to the presentation of the award, Meadows will talk about her work and what she has learned through her endeavors. Registration for the Drake Award Presentation will open on May 2.
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.