Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Background photo: central region of the Galaxy by Yuri Beletsky, Carnegie Las Campanas Observatory


The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) addresses one of the most important questions of our time: Are we alone in the universe?

Prospects for life elsewhere

Based on observations from the NASA Kepler telescope, we know that there are billions of habitable worlds in our galaxy. You do the math.

Prospects for establishing contact

Radio telescopes can detect signals emitted thousands of light years away, enabling contact from a large fraction of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Prospects for humanity

Imagine what we could learn if we received signals from an advanced civilization. Imagine the benefits to science, engineering, medicine, the arts, and philosophy.


Frank Drake conducted the first SETI search and was my thesis advisor's thesis advisor. Jill Tarter devoted her career to SETI and has provided guidance about our search. Carl Sagan vigorously promoted SETI and his position was endorsed by many other eminent scientists.


The results of our search of the Kepler field are published in the Astronomical Journal. Results of our search of TRAPPIST-1 and other planetary systems are published in the same journal. You may also read our science white paper submitted to the Astro 2020 decadal survey.

Graduate and undergraduate SETI course at UCLA

Students can learn valuable workplace skills (telecommunications, computer science, signal processing, statistics) in the context of SETI. Since 2016, I have been teaching the first-ever graduate and undergraduate SETI course in which students obtain and analyze data from large radio telescopes. Watch a two-minute video about the course or read the syllabus or course evaluations.

Photo of Spring 2016 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2016 UCLA SETI class with Larry Lesyna
Photo of Spring 2017 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2017 UCLA SETI class with Michael Thacher
Photo of Spring 2018 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2018 UCLA SETI class
Photo of Spring 2019 UCLA SETI class
Spring 2019 UCLA SETI class

How you can help

With your help, we can

  • Enable the purchase of equipment and telescope time to collect data
  • Improve the training of the next generation of scientists and engineers
  • Help bring the excitement of SETI to the UCLA classroom and the general public

Traditional sources of funding (e.g., NASA, NSF) do not support SETI work. An endowed graduate student or postdoctoral fellowship will enable a sustained SETI research program. Imagine what we could learn.

Donor Recognition

Our SETI teaching and research would not be possible without the generous gifts of our donors. We are extremely grateful for their support!

  • Janet Marott kick-started the course and enabled the purchase of a 100 TB storage server in 2016.
  • Michael W. Thacher and Rhonda L. Rundle enabled the purchase of telescope time in 2017-2019 and a 200 TB storage server in 2019.
  • Larry Lesyna enabled the 2016-2019 course offerings with gifts each year.
  • Arnie Boyarsky enabled the purchase of telescope time for the Spring 2017 course offering.
  • Gary and Nancy Beverage enabled the purchase of telescope time for the Spring 2018 course offering.
  • David Saltzberg has contributed to our SETI initiative with gifts every year in 2016-2018.
  • 32 donors contributed generously to our 2019 crowdfunding campaign.

Get involved

Subscribe to our newsletter, read past issues, or get in touch. Watch a two-minute video about the UCLA SETI course or a 30-minute talk about the search for life in the universe. If you wish to contribute, you can make a tax-deductible donation on the secure UCLA giving site.