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Students hear about search for next E.T. at Science and Mathematics Symposium
Posted: 10/05/2012
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The search for extraterrestrial life or the next "E.T." was the focus of just one presentation during the College of Science and Mathematics Symposium held at The University of Texas-Pan American Sept. 24-27 during the recent 2012 Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) conference.

Dr. Seth Shostak, chief astronomer at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Insitute, was one of the several presenters who participated in the College of Science and Mathematics Symposium held Sept. 24-27 during the University's annual HESTEC conference. Students were also able to present their research during the symposium.
Dr. Seth Shostak, chief astronomer with the privately funded SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, spoke to an auditorium full of students and faculty during day one of the symposium. In his humor-filled presentation, he talked about the possibilities of life outside Earth, our galaxy and beyond.

"There are a trillion planets in our Milky Way. That's a big number. Many may be worthless but we don't know. There may be a few billion earths within our galaxy alone," he said.

Shostak, who is also the host of radio show "Big Picture Science" and author of "Confessions of an Alien Hunter, a Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Life," said there is poor to no evidence available with prior claims of alien visitations to Earth. He described methods used to try to detect life elsewhere, particularly the detection of radio transmissions and said advanced antennas and machines are enhancing the ability to explore other star systems.

"I am going to bet all of you a cup of coffee from Starbucks that we will find another E.T. within two dozen years," he said, but indicated it will probably be in the form of a machine.

Shostak, said, aside from being important to the future, the study of and having a career in science is "really something interesting to do."

"People actually will pay you to solve puzzles. And if you solve a puzzle, you find out something new and every scientist does, then that will be true forever. You've done something that will live forever. There's a lot of satisfaction in that," he said.

Sergio Cepeda (BS '10), a graduate student in biology, said he thought Shostak's talk was very funny and kept the audience's attention.

"I appreciated his response to the question about the importance of the SETI research," said Cepeda, who agreed that such research should go on."It was particularly interesting when he talked about life forms on other planets could be bacterial. That related to my research."

Cepeda also participated in the research poster presentations which were held and judged during the four-day symposium. His research is focused on the detection of salmonella.

"I'm trying to find a better way to detect it in food samples," said Cepeda, who was one of the poster competition winners. "Current methods take a few days to get an answer, hopefully this method can give you an answer in 30 minutes to an hour."

Other speakers during the week in the Science and Math Symposium included Dr. Doug Wilson, associate research geophysicist, Marine Science Institute, University of California at Santa Barbara; Dr. Doug Frantz, assistant professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Texas-San Antonio; Dr. Qingyi Yu, assistant professor, Texas A&M University, Agrilife Research Center in Weslaco; and Dr. Alejandro Aceves, professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Program in Optical Sciences and Engineering, Southern Methodist University in Dallas.