Melvin Calvin: Nobel-Winning Chemist and SETI Scientist Wannabe

Melvin Calvin spent more than a decade answering one longstanding question in biochemistry: how did plants use carbon dioxide to manufacture carbohydrates in photosynthesis? This research earned Calvin a Nobel Prize-an honor that catapulted him to international fame, secured him spots on presidential advisory committees, and got him plenty of textbook mentions. But even though Calvin’s claim to fame was his work on photosynthesis, his longest-running passion project was investigating the origins of life in the universe. Astrobiology efforts peppered his career, from theorizing about chemical evolution to inspecting meteorites and moon rocks to joining the Order of the Dolphin at the first Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) conference in 1961.


Maria Temming

About Maria Temming

Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Maria Temming always envisioned herself as an author. While other kids played soccer or video games or the clarinet, Maria spent hours hashing out plot lines and characters. She never thought she would find anything quite as fascinating as her own word-constructed worlds—until she took a physics class. At first, Maria viewed physics and astronomy concepts merely as excellent fodder for sci-fi stories, but she soon found herself fascinated with the real science of the cosmos. As physics and English major at Elon University ‘16, Maria realized that science writing appeased both her inner STEM fangirl, who loved learning about the weird and wonderful phenomena in our universe, and the creative writer, who just wanted to spend her time telling stories. Maria cut her teeth in science journalism by writing for Sky & Telescope in the summer of 2014, and she worked as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow at Scientific American the following summer. During the school year, Maria got her science writing fix by contributing to the university tech blog and working on her thesis project: composing three chapters of a popular science book about the attendees of the Green Bank Meeting of 1961, the seminal SETI conference. She looks forward to further honing her science communication skills at MIT, so that she can get someone else excited about jaw-dropping, mind-bending, and sometimes just plain head-scratching research that physicists and astronomers are doing.


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