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Principal Investigator: Dr. Betul Kacar


Curriculum Vitae

Brief Bio:


Betül Kaçar (pron. BE-tuel KUH-charr)  is a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Bacteriology. She pioneered the field of molecular paleobiology. She investigates the origins and coevolution of cellular life and environment in lifeforms extinct and extant, using experimental and computational systems.


Detailed Bio:


She received her Ph.D. in Biomolecular Chemistry from Emory University Department of Chemistry and the School of Medicine, and completed her postdoctoral studies at NASA Astrobiology Institute and Harvard University on Origins of Life and Molecular Evolution. She is currently directing MUSE, a NASA ICAR research center on early life and evolution at the UW-Madison and co-leads a new NASA Research Coordination Network (RCN) on Early Cellular Evolution: LIFE.

Dr. Kaçar received the Stanley Miller Early Career Award, Rosalind Franklin Award, the Scialog fellowship for Search for Life in the Universe, and was named a NASA Early Career Fellow. Her work was awarded grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the National Science Foundation, Human Frontiers in Science Program, NASA, the Hypothesis Fund, Harvard Origins Initiative, the University of Arizona and the UW-Madison Alumni Foundation. 


She partnered with the UN Women Generation Equality Campaign to support education of girls and women globally and was named a "Way Cool Scientist" by the Science Club for Girls. In 2021, she was selected to direct a new NASA-funded multimillion-dollar astrobiology research center focusing on life’s early evolution with emphasis on the natural selection elements over geologic time.  In 2022 she delivered a TED talk on the mainstage discussing the chemical cocktail of life in the cosmos. Asteroid 284919 Kacar was named in her honor.


Dr. Kacar’s work has been shared by various media outlets, such as the UN Women, UNICEF, European Union Delegation on Education, NOVA Science, BBC, NPR Science Friday, MIT Technology Review, Vice News, Wired, PBS, CNN and others. In 2012 she co- founded SAGANet: The Online STEM Mentorship and Education Network, she served on the Board of Advisory Committee of the MIT BioBuilder Foundation.

Dr. Kacar can be reached at bkacar (at) wisc (dot) edu and on Twitter

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