The SETI Institute’s Dr. Margaret Race has been named a 2019 Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Margaret is a senior research scientist at the SETI Institute and is being recognized for distinguished contributions to the science underlying planetary protection, including astrobiology, as well as her outstanding contributions to risk communication in exobiology and solar system exploration.
“I'm delighted to learn of this award...and thankful for the opportunities I've had through my education and career to work across interdisciplinary topics,” said Race. “Who would have figured I could link my early interests in marine biology to research on mudsnails in San Francisco Bay.. and later to science communication in a TV-newsroom--and then missions to Mars! If you just reach for the stars-- you might surprise yourself and have a fun time on the way !”
In her work at the SETI Institute, Margaret is concerned with planetary protection, space policy, and interdisciplinary aspects of mission planning—especially to Mars and other solar system bodies. Her work focuses on the scientific, technical, legal, and societal issues of ensuring that missions to the Red Planet and other solar system bodies do not either inadvertently bring terrestrial microbes along, which would complicate our search for indigenous extraterrestrial life, or return uncontained microbes or materials to Earth. In addition to her current work on planning human missions beyond Earth orbit, she's also done research on public communication about biosafety and high-containment labs – the type that will eventually be used for the quarantine of returned samples from Mars.
Her interest in extraterrestrial organisms is linked closely to her long term ecological research on exotic and invasive species. She's also actively involved in education and public outreach about astrobiology. Since her early work with the Environmental Protection Agency as a Public Information Specialist and her tenure at San Francisco television station KQED (as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow), Margaret has had a strong interest in the communication of science via the mass media and public outreach. She especially likes to work with journalists and educators as they develop materials about complex, controversial issues in space exploration and environmental management. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and her work ensures that our spacecraft won't be.
Over the years, Margaret has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, San Francisco State University, St Mary's College, and Santa Clara University. She was also the Assistant Dean at the College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley
Margaret has a passion for sharing her knowledge and engaging with the general public and, in particular, with young people. She frequently teaches and lectures throughout the Bay Area including at the California Academy of Sciences, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, Chabot Space & Science Center, and various public libraries and museums. She has published over 150 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and is a regular speaker at scientific conferences in the US and internationally. Margaret received her Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley and her MS and BA degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.
AAAS Fellows are selected by their peers and the class of 2019 will be officially recognized on February 15, 2020, at the Fellows Forum during the AAAS annual meeting in Seattle, WA.