Kathryn Bywaters and Driss Takir Join the SETI Institute

The SETI Institute welcomes two new principal investigators who join more than 75 scientists who are exploring the development of life, where else in the Universe it exists and how we might find it. Kathryn Bywaters has a PhD in Environmental Science and a background in biochemistry and biology, and specializes in life detection instrumentation and exploration strategies. Driss holds a PhD in Planetary Science and has a background in space studies, computer science and physics.

"It is with great pleasure that I introduce the two newest SETI Institute Principal Investigators, Kathryn Bywaters and Driss Takir, said Nathalie Cabrol, Director of the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute. Kathryn and Driss will expand our scientific team’s breadth and depth of expertise in the search for life beyond Earth. I extend my warmest wishes for success and fruitful collaboration with a unique team of scientists."

Kathryn Bywaters’ work encompasses a wide range of interdisciplinary projects including development of life detection instrumentation for future space exploration, investigating the nutrient constraints microbes would have on Mars, and performing experiments in Mars analog environments.   

Kathryn has extensive fieldwork experience is some of the most extreme environments on Earth. She spent four months on Devon Island in the Canadian High Artic looking at the winter to spring transition in active layer above the permafrost. She recently completed fieldwork in the Yungay region of the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, to work on increasing the technology readiness level of nanopore technology.

“I love being a part of the SETI Institute community because they understand the importance of and whole-heartedly support my research and leadership role in the field of astrobiology and life detection,” said Kathryn.

Kathryn completed her PhD at the University of Nevada at Reno in Environmental Science. She conducted her graduate work at the Desert Research Institute in the field of biofuels investigating lipid production in algae. Kathryn has also published a young adult fiction novel. Educational outreach is very important to Kathryn, in particular inspiring students in the STEM fields.

Driss Takir’s research interests include observations and spectral properties of primitive asteroids; laboratory ultra-high vacuum and spectral experiments; theoretical modeling; spectral properties and minerology of primitive meteorites; and spacecraft missions and CubeSats to study asteroids.

“I am excited about joining the SETI Institute,” said Driss, “and I am looking forward to meeting and collaborating with everyone at the Institute.”

Driss received his PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Tennessee. Before joining the SETI Institute he was a Shoemaker Fellow at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, AZ. He is a U.S. participating scientist for JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 mission and is working on several NASA-funded projects.

Learn more about becoming a SETI Institute Principal Investigator here.