Hold on to your hats, skeptics. The study of alien existence is about to become a real scientific field. Pennsylvania State University is gearing up to make the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) an established field of scientific study. This means that a degree in Alien Research, no matter how outlandish it might sound, is soon going to be a real thing.
According to a report, the university is planning on doing this by offering courses on the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life in its course catalog. It will also conduct actual research into the subject through it’s newly-established Penn State Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center (PSETI Center).
The mind behind the PSETI Center is Jason T. Wright, Ph.D. According to his profile page on the Penn State website, Wright teaches astronomy and astrophysics in the university and also serves as a member of the university’s Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, and the Habitable Zone Planet Finder development team.
His career in Penn State exposed him to data often studied by SETI scientists as part of the earlier program. Wright’s journey into the search for intelligent life began in the early 2010s, however, where an accidental one-off statement to a journalist turned him into a resource person for all queries that were remotely extraterrestrial in context.
As a result, Wright decided to pursue SETI as a serious scientific endeavor, especially because no more than seven other scientists have achieved doctorates in conducting research in the otherwise decade-old field. With the help of former SETI Institute board chair John Gertz, Wright was eventually able to establish the idea of PSETI.
Today, PSETI is all but a legitimate research center, as it awaits approval from Penn State’s vice president for research. However, the fledgling center is hopeful; with Penn State President Eric Barron’s presence in PSETI’s advisory board and the help of funding from wealthy third-party donors, the only thing that’s missing is the stamp of approval from the university to make it official.
The center plans on expanding on the body of work that goes into the search for intelligent life in the universe. But it’s eventual goal is simple: to turn the S in SETI from ‘search’ to ‘study.'