Frank Drake is the Chairman Emeritus of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees, and a Professor Emeritus of the University of California, Santa Cruz
In 1960 he conducted the first modern search for extraterrestrial radio signals by searching for signals from the two nearest sun-like stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani.
He also constructed the well-known “Drake Equation”, which quantifies the evolution of planets, biology, intelligence, and technology so as to provide estimates of the number of detectable civilizations in space.
He has studied plausible methods by which we can communicate with other civilizations. In 1974 he constructed a simple message, designed to be understandable by non-human intelligent creatures, which was transmitted from Arecibo towards the globular cluster M13. He also shared in the design of the informational plaques carried into interstellar space on the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, and in the design of the “Golden Records” which were launched into interstellar space on the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft.
He has been Dean of Natural Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1984-1998), and President of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1972) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1974). He has been has been Chairman of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Research Council (1989-1992), and the Chairman of the US National Committee for the International Astronomical Union. He has been President of The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (1998-1990). He was the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University, 1964-1984, and Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, 1984-1996. He was awarded the Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 2001.
He conducts searches for optical laser signals from other planetary systems in collaboration with colleagues at the Lick Observatory, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Toronto.