Karen J. Meech

Astronomer, astrobiologist
Karen J. Meech is an astronomer who investigates how habitable worlds form and explores the bigger picture of whether there is life elsewhere.

Why you should listen

Astrobiologist Karen J. Meech uses the leftover pieces from our solar system's formation to understand how habitable planets are made. Her curiosity about life beyond earth was inspired as a child watching Star Trek. From this, her path led to a career in physics and astronomy, with a PhD in planetary physics from MIT. She is now an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, where she leads the astrobiology group, and she is a passionate scientific educator.

Meech started her astronomical career investigating comets, the icy leftovers from the birth of our solar system. Her work led to an understanding of many of the processes that cause the beautiful tails to develop far from our Sun. She was co-investigator on three comet missions. Her discoveries provide information to test our understanding of how planetary systems are assembled. Now her work has embraced the power of interdisciplinary science, and she is combining geological field work, geochemistry, astronomical observations, theory and space mission concepts to address fundamental questions about how earth got its water.