Astrobiologist and national security expert Christopher Chyba named 2001 MacArthur

Christopher Chyba, a prominent astrobiologist, former White House security adviser and co-director of the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), has been named one of this years MacArthur Fellows.

Chyba, also an associate professor (research) of geological and environmental sciences at Stanford, is one of 23 people awarded a 2001 fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago.

In granting the fellowship, the foundation cited Chybas "passion for understanding life on Earth and for protecting human civilization from self-destruction," as well as his recent work focusing on "the relationship between preparing for biological terrorism and improving public health."

According to foundation officials, the unrestricted fellowships are given to talented individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary originality and a marked capacity for self-direction. Each recipient will receive a $500,000, "no strings attached" stipend to be paid in equal quarterly installments over five years beginning in January 2002. Fellows may use the stipend any way they see fit even to change their fields or alter the direction of their careers.

"There is no way you can ever anticipate something like this," said Chyba, 41, who also holds the Carl Sagan Chair for the Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

"My wife and I have barely had time to talk about what to do with the award," he added, "although I will have a lot more flexibility now."

Origin of life

The MacArthur Foundation praised Chybas scientific efforts at reconstructing the conditions that spawned terrestrial life, and exploring similarities and differences among other objects in the solar system.

"Chyba has developed models to understand how Earth could have sustained life 3.5 billion years ago, when the Sun was 25 percent dimmer than it is today," noted the foundation

Contact: Mark Shwartz
Stanford University

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