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Laureates / 

Sara Seager

Sara Seager was born in Toronto, Canada, and remained in her home city to study mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto. She moved to the USA in 1994, pursuing a PhD at Harvard University on the atmospheres of extra-solar planets known as hot Jupiters. One of a fairly small band of scientists working on exoplanets at that point, she took up a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton before moving to the Carnegie Institution of Washington and then, in 2007, to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she has remained ever since.

Seager has devoted much of her research to characterizing the atmospheric gases of exoplanets via spectroscopy, predicting in 1999 that sodium ought to be detectable – which motivated and was confirmed by the first exoplanet atmospheric observations two years later. She has since focused in particular on the search for Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars, compiling a list of all the potentially detectable gases that could indicate life on exoplanets and also developing a concept known as the starshade. This large, petal-shaped screen would fly some distance from a space telescope to block as much of a star's light as possible, so yielding a detectable signal from a planet's weak reflected light.

Seager has received a number of awards for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship and appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.