Breakthrough Discuss 2024

(this page is regularly updated)

18 - 19 July

University of Oxford, Department of Physics

Conference Theme 

A Cosmic Tapestry for Exploration:
Weaving Novel Strands in Artificial Intelligence, Astrobiology and Space Missions

Breakthrough Discuss 2024 will unite three scientific strands that are transforming our view of the universe and our place in it: Artificial Intelligence, Astrobiology and Space Robotics. Each field is undergoing a transformation fueled by recent discoveries, innovative engineering, and groundbreaking ideas. Together, they are expanding the way we think about life in the cosmos and the potential for humanity’s exploration of it. 

Strand 1:  Science Transformed by Artificial Intelligence

A revolution in data science and advancements in Artificial Intelligence are weaving new dimensions to astronomy, including innovative approaches of searching for evidence of life beyond the Earth – both biosignatures and technosignatures.

Strand 2:  Fabric of Life On and Off the Earth 

Evidence from extreme habitats on Earth (and in the lab), studies of the distant past (including life’s origins), the broad range of environments offered by the Solar System, and an increasingly diverse set of exoplanets, are enriching our understanding of the tapestry of life and its potential extent in the cosmos.

Strand 3:  New Frontiers in Space Exploration 

Emergent launch capabilities coupled with novel robotic technologies promise a new era in space missions. Whether remote sensing or in situ, from the far side of the Moon or voyaging to the outer reaches of the Solar System and beyond, these capabilities present a new canvas for scientific exploration. 


‘Highlight’ talks by:

  • David Deutsch (University of Oxford)
  • Alison Lowndes (NVIDIA)

Strand 1:  Science Transformed by Artificial Intelligence

  • Chairs: Chris Lintott and Michelle Lochner
  • Guillermo Cabrera-Vives (University of Concepción)
  • Vishal Gajjar (SETI Institute)
  • Daniel Muthukrishna (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Ashley Villar (Harvard University)

Strand 2:  Fabric of Life On and Off the Earth  

  • Chair: Penny Boston (NASA Ames Research Center)
  • Suzanne Aigrain (University of Oxford)
  • Chris Glein (Southwest Research Institute)
  • Jane Greaves (Cardiff University)
  • Bethany Theiling (NASA Goddard)

Strand 3:  New Frontiers in Space Exploration

  • Chairs: Carly Howett and Zac Manchester
  • Edward Balaban (NASA Ames)
  • Carolyn Mercer (NASA HQ)
  • Arpita Roy (Schmidt Sciences)
  • Vandi Verma (NASA JPL)


Examination Schools, University of Oxford,

75 - 81 High St, Oxford, OX1 4BG 

South Writing School


Day One - Thursday 18 July

Conference: 09:00 - 17:00 (BST)

Day Two - Friday 19 July 

Conference: 09:00 - 17:00 (BST)

Reception:  19:00 - 00:00 (BST)


The conference and reception are invitation-only and capacity-limited in person. If you did not receive an invite and wish to attend in person, please email We will consider your request provided there is capacity and affiliation with a partnering institution. 

Online participation

The conference will be streamed live here: ​​Breakthrough - YouTube


Oxford is always busy, so it is strongly recommended to book your accommodation before you travel. You can sample Oxford life by staying in one of the colleges, or there are hotels and B&Bs. 

  • The Randolph Hotel (hotel where speakers and hosts are staying) Beaumont St, Oxford OX1 2LN, United Kingdom.  
  • University Rooms provides a booking service for rooms and colleges and other university owned accommodation at reasonable rates, particularly during the University vacations. 
  • Bookings may be made directly with hotels or through companies, etc.

Travelling to Oxford 

Information on travelling to Oxford can be found here - Visiting Oxford For questions please contact:

Past Content 

Content and videos from previous years are available here:

Scientific Organizing Committee

  • SOC Chair: Chris Lintott (University of Oxford)
  • Penny Boston (NASA Ames)
  • Joe Bright (University of Oxford)
  • Patrizia Caraveo (INAF)
  • Steve Croft (University of Oxford)
  • Therese Docherty (University of Oxford)
  • Jamie Drew (Breakthrough Initiatives)
  • Rob Fender (University of Oxford)
  • Christopher Glein (Southwest Research Institute)
  • Kyran Grattan (Breakthrough Initiatives)
  • Carly Howett (University of Oxford)
  • Zac Manchester (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Michelle Lochner (University of the Western Cape)
  • Andrew Siemion (University of Oxford) 

Local Organizing Committee

  • LOC Chair: Leanne O'Donnell (University of Oxford)
  • LOC Co-Chair: Kasia Metkowski (Breakthrough Initiatives)
  • Kyran Grattan (Breakthrough Initiatives)
  • Ashling Gordon (University of Oxford)

Conference Directors

  • Jamie Drew (Breakthrough Initiatives)
  • Kyran Grattan (Breakthrough Initiatives)


For questions please contact: