Faculty Directory

Department Chair: Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz Department Manager: Jenna Scarpelli
Associate Chair: Ruth Murray-Clay Graduate Advisor: David Sugg
Undergraduate Program: Jonathan Fortney Graduate Program: Brant Robertson
Frank Drake
  • Title
    • Professor Emeritus
  • Division Physical & Biological Sciences
  • Department
    • Astronomy & Astrophysics Department
  • Phone
    831-459-2844, 831-459-4885
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location SETI Institute
  • Mail Stop UCO / Lick Observatory
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Astronomy, Astrophysics

Research Interests

Frank Drake, who conducted the first modern SETI experiment in 1960, continues his life-long interest in the detection of extraterrestrial sentient life. He participates in an on-going search for optical signals of intelligent origin, carried out with colleagues from Lick Observatory and the University of California at Berkeley, using the 40-inch Nickel telescope at Lick.

Frank also continues to investigate radio telescope designs that optimize the chances of success for SETI (he proposed the plan used in the design of the Allen Telescope Array, based on some of his work of more than forty years ago.) He is also interested in the possibility that the very numerous red dwarf stars, stars that are much less bright than the Sun, might host habitable planets. In this regard, he has noted that the behavior of various objects in our own solar system – in particular the resonances between their rotation and orbital periods – when applied to some of the newly discovered extrasolar planets, strongly suggests that most planets orbiting red dwarfs will not keep one face towards their star, and thus are more likely to be habitable. If this is proven correct, it will increase by almost ten times the probable number of habitable planets in the Milky Way.