As Eric’s interest in space grew, however, he realized that science was a path to answers about our place in the cosmos. Although he was also interested in computer science, he studied astronomy and physics at the University of Wisconsin, before coming to Berkeley for a PhD in astronomy. After graduation, he joined the Berkeley SETI group (now BSRC, the Berkeley SETI Research Center) as a research scientist. Drawing on his skills in computers and astronomy, BSRC proved to be an ideal place for Eric’s interests.
One of the first, and still one of the largest, volunteer distributed computing projects in the world, SETI@home relies on hundreds of thousands of volunteers who download a small piece of software that runs on their home computers when they otherwise would be idle. Instead of bouncing balls, animated aquariums, or vacation slideshows, the SETI@home screensaver uses the computer’s processing power to sift through the data from the Arecibo Telescope in search of signals that don’t look like they were generated by natural processes.