The Carl Sagan Institute will create the forensic toolkit to find life on planets in our Solar System and beyond using multidisciplinary research. We explore planets, moons and planetary systems: How they form, how they evolve, and whether they can harbor life.


The Carl Sagan Institute engages in a wide range of exciting science and takes an interdisciplinary approach (see the team of researchers for specific research topics).

Come and bring your ideas to the CSI – postdoctoral and graduate fellowships allow you to the freedom to engage in your own ideas – contact us and we’ll be happy to work with you on the applications – some links: Cornell Presidential Fellowship (Oct 1st deadline), Sagan Fellowship (Are we alone?), Hubble Fellowship (How did we get here?) (Nov 2nd deadline)

If you have a good idea contact us (Jill Tarbell, CSI administrator) – we have several opportunities to work on a short or longer term basis and are looking for excellent candidates to fill those positions (positions are also announced periodically on AAS) – and will be posted here as well.

Summer internships for students: Carl Sagan Institute is part of Cornell’s Astronomy REU program – let them know you’d like to work at CSI.

MAJOR RESEARCH TRUSTS change over time, at present, they are: 

– to model atmospheric spectral signatures (the light fingerprint of a planet or moon), including biosignatures of known and hypothetical planets to explore whether or not they could be habitable. We focus on planets and moons orbiting stars bright enough for future atmosphere follow-up, especially Mini- to Super-Earths (rocky terrestrial planets of 0.5-10 Earth masses) orbiting in the “Habitable Zones” around their host stars.  We explore a wide diversity of planets from Mini-Neptunes to Lava Worlds in our team, and compare their spectral fingerprint to learn about planets and how they work. Prepare for transit observations of planets with the James Webb Space Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescopes

Illeana Gomez-Leal (APS) Siddharth Hegde (APS) Lisa Kaltenegger (APS)Nikole Lewis (APS) Jack O’Malley-James (APS) Ramses Ramirez (ELSI, Tokyo), Sarah Rugheimer (St. Andrews, UK)

– modeling the stability and evolution of exoplanetary systems  

Dong Lai (APS)  Richard Lovelace (AEP,APS) Marina Romanova (APS)

– to explore the Solar System  to understand how giant planets and their moons form and evolve, to search for habitable environments on and within moons (like Enceladus, Europa and Titan), and to examine the farthest bodies in the solar system for clues to the early history of the solar system. 

Alex Hayes (APS,EAS), Jonathan Lunine (APS) Maryame El Moutamid (APS) Phil Nicholson (APS)

– to design and demonstrate next-generation spacecraft architectures in orbit. To look at new approaches to space exploration, including technologies that may someday enable robotic missions to another solar system, cube sats and robotic eels.

James Lloyd (APS) Mason Peck (MAE) Dmitry Savransky (MAE)

– to use Earth and Solar System input of geophysical fluid dynamics and thermal evolution of solid planets and the tectonic, glacial and volcanic features that shape their surfaces to model and study a wide range of possible planets and moons inside and outside our own Solar System.

Toby Ault (EAS)   Lou Derry (EAS), Peter Diamesses (CEE), Esteban Gazel (EAS), Matt Pritchard (EAS) Will White (EAS)

– to use Earth biota as a Rosetta Stone for the search for life on other worlds. We include life form that are called “extreme” on our own planet, but could be dominant on other worlds and develop observing strategies and mission concepts for future searches.

Siddharth Hegde (APS) Lisa Kaltenegger (APS) Jack O’Malley-James (APS) William Douglas Philpot (CEE)  Abraham Stroock (CBE) Steve Zinder (CALS) Ruth Richardson (CEE), Ellis Loew (CVM)

– to explore how life would be different on worlds like Titan

Paulette Clancy (CBE), Jonathan Lunine (APS)

– how we could detect technological civilizations

Shami Chatterjee (APS) James Cordes (APS), Bart Selman (CS)

– how we can use statistics and machine learning to understand/find life

Carla Gomes (CS, SCI), Bart Selman (CS)  David Rupert (Stat) Tom Loredo (APS)

– how to communicate our results to the public & links to art and performance

Andrew Hicks (MUS)  Bruce Lewenstein (Comm, S&TS)