Clara Sousa-Silva is a quantum astrochemist at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and the Smithsonian, where she investigates how molecules interact with light so that they can be detected on faraway worlds.

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Clara Sousa-Silva studies 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 isn't deciphering exoplanet atmospheres, she works 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 master's degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Among her achievements, she is the recipient of the prestigious 51 Pegasi b Fellowship from the Heising-Simons Foundation. The fellowship supports exceptional postdoctoral scientists who make unique contributions to the growing field of planetary astronomy. Her work and commentary has been featured in the BBC, Forbes, WIRED and the New York Times, among others. Prior to joining the Center for Astrophysics, she served as a research scientist at MIT.

Clara Sousa-Silva’s TED talk

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Live from TEDMonterey

Notes from Session Zero(!) of TEDMonterey

July 22, 2021

What’s Session Zero? It’s the first-ever special teaser session of a TED Conference! Ten days from now, on August 1, TEDMonterey kicks off in Monterey, California. More than a year of planning for TED’s first in-person conference since 2019 resulted in some forward-thinking, including recording talks from amazing speakers around the world, just in case […]

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