Clara Sousa-Silva, Bard College

Over the last few decades, scientists have found thousands of planets beyond our own. Some of those planets might be habitable, and perhaps even inhabited already; but how can we tell? Clara Sousa-Silva investigates how molecules interact with light so that they can be detected on faraway worlds, in particular those molecules that may be associated with life. In this talk, Clara draws on her experience investigating strange molecules on strange planets, and her efforts to answer the question: “Would we know life if we saw it?

Professor Sousa-Silva is a quantum astrochemist and molecular astrophysicist at Bard College. When she is not deciphering exoplanet atmospheres, Clara works hard to persuade the next generation of scientists to become an active part of the astronomical community.

Clara holds a doctoral degree in quantum chemistry from the University College London, and a masters degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Among her many achievements, Clara is the recipient of the 51 b Pegasi Fellowship. Prior to joining Bard, Clara was at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian from 2020 – 2022, and MIT from 2016 – 2020.

Clara’s work and commentary has been featured in the BBC, WIRED, and the New York Times, among many others, and is the focus of her TED talk.