Phi Beta Kappa lecture set for April 23

Lisa Pratt, a professor in the department of geological sciences at Indiana University, will spend two days at Cornell College as the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar and deliver a lecture at 11:10 a.m. Friday, April 23, in Hedges Conference Room in The Commons.

lisa-pratt-mainThe lecture, “Technical and Ethical Challenges Associated with the Search for Extraterrestrial Life,” will address the ways scientists need to proceed when presented with the possibility of life on other planets. The talk will focus on reports of methane in the atmosphere of Mars and the dual responsibility for preventing contamination of Mars by terrestrial microorganisms and ensuring containment of extra-terrestrial life forms if Martian samples are returned to Earth for study.

During her two-day visit to campus, she will attend a geology class, lecture and attend a luncheon with Phi Beta Kappa students.

As director of a NASA Astrobiology Institute Team, Pratt has collected samples of water, rock, and natural gas in active gold mines at depths up to 2.5 miles below the surface in South Africa and in the Canadian Arctic.  She is chair of the NASA science advisory group developing a 2018 mission concept for a Mars rover likely to be the first step in a sample return campaign and she currently serves on the Mars Panel for the National Research Council Planetary Science Decadal Survey.  She has been active on national committees of the Geological Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the Society for Sedimentary Geology and is a former member of the editorial boards of Geology, GSA Bulletin, and Geobiology.

The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program makes available each year 12 or more distinguished scholars who visit 100 colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most respected academic honor society, with chapters at 276 colleges and universities.