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Rebecca Charbonneau

PhD student

College: Christ's
Supervisor: Richard Staley
Advisor: Simon Schaffer
Thesis topic: Communicating with aliens: How the search for extraterrestrial intelligence facilitated collaboration during the Cold War

Research interests: History of Aerospace and Astronomy; History and Philosophy of Physics; Radio Astronomy; Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI); Cold War History; Extraterrestrial Life Debate

Prior Education 

M.Sc, University of Oxford (2018)
BA, Rollins College (2016) 

Relevant Professional Experience

National Radio Astronomy Observatory 
Summer Research Assistant (May 2019 - Present) 

International Astronomical Union (IAU) Working Group on Historical Radio Astronomy
Associate (May 2019 - Present)

American Astronomical Society (AAS) Historical Astronomy Division (HAD)
Committee Member (Jan 2019 - Present)

National Radio Astronomy Observatory 
Graduate Intern and Summer Research Assistant (Jan 2018 - Aug 2018)

NASA Headquarters  
Graduate Intern in History Office (Sept 2017 - Jan 2018)


Rebecca A. Charbonneau “The Mysterious Wow! Signal”, American Astronomical Society Newsletter (August 2018).

Rebecca A. Charbonneau “How Shall We Remember Caroline Herschel?,” American Astronomical Society Newsletter (March 2018). (Extended version published at

Rebecca A. Charbonneau, “Different Worlds: The Challenges of US and Soviet SETI Collaboration During the Space Age,” NASA History Quarterly (December 2017), vol. 34, no. 4: 18-21.

Relevant Honors and Awards

Gates Cambridge Scholarship (2018)

Cambridge Research Photography Exhibition, Third Place (2019)

ESA Space History Conference 'Best Paper for Ongoing Project' (Nov 2017)

University of Oxford History and Philosophy of Physics Prize (June 2017)

Public Outreach  

Guest speaker on space history for BBC 5's "The Naked Scientist" show

NASA Solar System Ambassador 

Selected Talks

British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference
Cambridge, England (forthcoming April 2019)
Title: "Reaching a Resolution: The role of VLBI in establishing an international radio astronomy network during the Cold War"

Gates Cambridge Scholar Talks (invited)
Cambridge, England (January 2019)
Title: "Where the Wired Things Are: Life Amongst the Telescopes in the Mountains"

American Astronomical Society (AAS)
Seattle, WA (January 2019)
Title: “Historians, Meet the Square Kilometre Array: Navigating the Methodological Challenges of (Very) Contemporary History”

NRAO Summer Research Talk
Charlottesville, VA (August 2018)
Title: “International Collaboration and the Square Kilometer Array”

Green Bank Observatory “Radio Boot Camp” Lecture (invited) 
Green Bank, WV (June 2018)
Title:“SETI at Green Bank: 1960 - Present”

National Radio Astronomy Observatory "TUNA" Talk (invited)
Charlottesville, VA (May 2018)
Title: SETI: A Brief History

University of Virginia Physics Honors Society
Charlottesville, VA (April 2018)
Title: “‘Martian Hunting at the Taxpayer’s Expense’: NASA’s Two Decades of SETI ”

Bob Rood Symposium
Charlottesville, VA (March 2018)
Title: “‘Radio to Stars’: Interstellar Communication and the Creation of the Edwardian Genius”

American Astronomical Society (AAS)
Washington, D.C. (January 2018)
Title: “Mid-Twentieth Century Radio Astronomy and the Origin of the International SETI Network”

European Space Agency (ESA) Space History Conference
Padua, Italy (November 2017)
Title: “Radio Pioneers and the Origins of SETI in Europe” (Prize: Best Paper for Ongoing Project, selected for publication in proceedings)

University of Oxford HSMT Postgraduate Conference
Oxford, UK (June 2017)
Title: “Intelligent Life in the Universe: The Influence of Cosmism in Mid-Twentieth Century Astrophysics

Rebecca Charbonneau