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Jill Tarter

ByJill TarterThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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“Being a scientist means you never have to grow up.”


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Jill watches and listens for signs of extraterrestrial life; her favorite thing about the movie, “E.T.” is that “he gets drunk on terrestrial beer.”


Jill was the basis for the character, “Ellie,” in the novel and film versions of Carl Sagan’s “Contact”; she loves Jodie Foster, but is peeved that they got some of the math wrong!

30 Seconds on Why We Search for Aliens

Jill Tarter tries to answer one of the oldest questions we've got.... Are we alone?

Different Than the Other Sons

Jill Tarter's football player Dad inspires her to hunt and fish and become an engineer.

Carl Sagan Contacted Me

Jill Tarter tries to find aliens and uses Jodie Foster to help move the process along.

Carl’s Turning Over In His Grave

Jill Tarter describes a math error that found its way into the movie "Contact" and then consoles herself by talking about champagne.

About Jill Tarter

Jill Tarter is an astronomer and the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute in California. SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence and that’s exactly what Jill’s been doing for almost her entire professional life. She was also the basis for the main character in Carl Sagan’s novel “”Contact”” and the character played by Jodie Foster in the film adaptation of the book.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.