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Clara Sousa-Silva    

Quantum Astrochemist & Science Communicator

Dr. Clara Sousa-Silva is a quantum astrochemist, currently at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard &Smithsonian. She investigates how molecules interact with light so that they can be detected on faraway worlds. Sousa-Silva spends most of her time studying molecules that life can produce so that, one day, she can detect an alien biosphere. Her favorite molecular biosignature is phosphine: a terrifying gas associated with mostly unpleasant life. When she is not deciphering exoplanet atmospheres, Sousa-Silva works hard to persuade the next generation of scientists to become an active part of the astronomical community.

Sousa-Silva 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. Prior to joining Harvard, Sousa-Silva served as a research scientist at MIT from 2016 to 2019. Among her many achievements, Sousa-Silva is the recipient of the prestigious 51 b Pegasi Fellowship from the Heising-Simons Foundation, a fellowship which supports the growing field of planetary astronomy and exceptional postdoctoral scientists who make unique contributions to the field of astronomy. Sousa-Silva's work and commentary has been featured in the BBC, WIRED, New Scientist, National Geographic, and the New York Times, among many others, and is the focus of her TED talk.

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