CAA Member Bios
DAVID N. SPERGEL (NAS) is the Charles A. Young Professor of Astronomy on the Class of 1897 Foundation and chair of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. He was the W.M. Keck Distinguished Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study. Dr. Spergel has made major contributions to cosmology, astroparticle physics, galactic structure, and instrumentation. He led the theoretical analysis for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), invented novel coronagraphs for planet detection, originated and explored the concept of self-interacting dark matter, and showed that the Milky Way is a barred galaxy. He was an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and received the following awards: NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Helen B. Warner Prize, the Bart Bok Prize, the AAS Second Century Lecturer, a MacArthur Fellowship and the R.R. Shaw Prize in Cosmology. He is a member of the Science Working Group for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). He is a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Physical Society (APS), and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Dr. Spergel served on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Advisory Committee for Astronomical Sciences, the Theory, Experimental and Laboratory Astrophysics Subcommittee and the Scientific Advisory Board for the Hayden Planetarium. He is the editor of the Princeton Series in Astrophysics and the science advisor for NPR’s “Earth & Sky” radio program. He received an A.B. (astronomy summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) from Princeton University; he was Harvard Travelling Scholar at Oxford University; and he received an A.M. in astronomy and a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University. His NRC service includes current membership on the Space Studies Board. Previously, he has served as chair on the Astro2010 Panel on Cosmology and Fundamental Physics and is currently the chair of the Committee on the Assessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid. He was also a member on the Committee to Review the Science Requirements for the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the Committee on Physics of the Universe, the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics, the Committee on Gravitational Physics, the Organizing Committee for the Eighth and Ninth Annual Symposiums on Frontiers of Science, the Task Group on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Panel on Cooperation with the USSR in High Energy Astrophysics.
PAUL L. SCHECHTER (NAS) is the William A. M. Burden Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Dr. Schechter’s research interests are galaxies, clusters of galaxies, the distribution of dark matter, and active optics. He is also familiar with observational techniques such as microlensing and gravitational lensing. Prior to joining the faculty at MIT, Dr. Schechter held postdoctoral positions at the Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Arizona, a faculty position at Harvard, and staff positions at Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Carnegie Observatories. He has carried out optical observations of the mirages produced by extragalactic gravitational potentials using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes. He also helped develop the active optics system for the Carnegie Institute of Washington’s Magellan Telescopes. Dr. Schechter received his B.A. in physics and mathematics from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He was a member of the Astro2010 Panel on Electromagnetic Observations from Space and is currently a member of the Board on Physics and Astronomy.
JEREMY K. DARLING is an assistant professor of astrophysics at the Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His research focuses on galaxy evolution and cosmology, including hydroxyl (OH) megamasers, galaxy-black hole co-evolution, formaldehyde and water in star-forming galaxies, molecular and atomic gas in gravitational lenses, high redshift quasars, hydrogen absorption, local group proper motion, precision astrophysics, and astrophysical tests of fundamental physical theories. Dr. Darling is currently working on molecular methods to identify and study star-forming and merging galaxies, and to use these galaxies as cosmological probes. He received his B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology, and his Ph.D. in astrophysics from Cornell University.
MEGAN DONAHUE is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Michigan State University. Dr. Donahue’s research interests include the thermodynamic state and behavior of baryons in and around galaxies, intergalactic gas, star formation in bright cluster galaxies, and dark matter in distant galactic clusters, for which she uses data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's X-ray Multi-Mirror Newton X-ray Observatory. She also uses the Spitzer and SOAR (the MSU Chilean telescope) programs to study brightest cluster galaxies and clusters. Dr. Donahue earned her B.S. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Colorado. Dr. Donahue previously served on the NRC Astro2010 Decadal Survey Panel on Electromagnetic Observations from Space, the U.S. National Committee for the International Astronomical Union, and the NASA Astrophysics Performance Assessment Committee.
DEBRA FISCHER is a professor at Yale University in Astronomy and was previously an associate professor at San Francisco State University from 2003 to 2008 in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Her research is centered on the detection and characterization of planets orbiting other stars. Dr. Fischer has been a PI on several projects including The Lick Planetary Search program, the CTIO planet search in Chile, and Doppler analysis software. She is the PI for CHIRON, a high-resolution spectrometer to look for rocky planets around Alpha Centauri A and B stars which is centered at CTIO in Chile and, in 1999, she discovered the first known multiple planet system while at San Francisco State University. From 2003–2008, she led an international consortium to carry out a search for planets around metal-rich stars which found 50 such stars. Dr. Fischer has also modeled spectra of stars on planet search programs at several observatories demonstrating a strong correlation between the chemical composition of stars and the presence of gas giant planets. She is currently on the NASA Management Operations Working Group and NSF Portfolios Review Committee. Dr. Fischer received her B.S. from the University of Iowa, her M.S. in physics from San Francisco State University, and her Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
JOSHUA A. FRIEMAN is a scientist at the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), which he headed from 1994 to 1999, and is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, where he is also a member of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. He is a fellow of APS and AAAS and a trustee of the Aspen Center for Physics. He served on the Executive Committee of the APS Division of Astrophysics. Dr. Frieman’s research centers on theoretical and observational cosmology, including studies of the nature of dark energy, the very early universe, gravitational lensing, the large-scale structure of the universe, and supernovae as cosmological distance indicators. He is the author of more than 200 publications, has led the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Supernova Survey, and served as chair of the SDSS Collaboration Council. He is a founder of the Dark Energy Survey and serves as co-chair of its Science Committee. He earned a B.Sc. degree from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. Dr. Frieman’s previous NRC membership includes service the Assessment of a Plan for U.S. Participation in Euclid, Committee on Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2010 and the Panel on Particle, Nuclear, and Gravitational-Wave Astrophysics.
CHARLES F. GAMMIE is the chair of the Department of Astronomy and a professor of physics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Gammie's research involves magnetohydrodynamics, star formation, and accretion physics. He is an expert in the computer simulation of astrophysical plasmas, the formation of interstellar clouds, and the collapse of dense clouds to form stars. He is also carrying out calculations of disk accretion onto black holes in general relativity. Dr. Gammie was named a University Scholar by the University of Illinois, and he is a Fellow of the APS. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Illinois he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a VITA postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia. He is a member of the AAS, AAAS, the American Geophysical Union, and APS. Dr. Gammie received his B.S. degree in mathematics from Yale University and his Ph.D. in astrophysical sciences from Princeton.
TIMOTHY M. HECKMAN is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy of the Johns Hopkins University and Director of the Center for Astrophysical Sciences. He is also the inaugural Dr. A. Hermann Pfund Professor. As Director he is responsible for promoting and supporting research in astrophysics, for nurturing large-scale projects and providing them with an organizational structure, for providing a forum and a focus for strategic planning, for fostering cooperation between the different elements of the local astrophysics and space science communities, and for providing a structured career path for the non-tenure-track research staff. His research interests include galaxy evolution, starbursts, black holes, and active galactic nuclei. Dr. Heckman is a member of the GALEX Science Team, a builder of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Chair of the Pan-STARRS1 Science Consortium Board, Vice Chair of the Board of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, and was the chair of the Astrophysical Research Consortium Board of Governors from 1995 to 2000, during which time ARC established the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. He has authored or co-authored over 600 scholarly publications which have been cited over 28,000 times and has been invited to give nearly 100 talks at national and international conferences. Dr. Heckman received his B.A. from Harvard College, and his Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Washington. He was a member of the NRC’s Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics from 2004 to 2007, and was a member of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey’s steering committee.
LYNNE HILLENBRAND is a professor of astronomy and executive officer for astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Her research interests are in star formation, young stars and stellar clusters, accretion and debris disks, planet formation, and extrasolar planets. Dr. Hillenbrand's research deals with observational and data analysis experience covering wavelengths from x ray to millimeter, although focusing mostly on optical/near-infrared science. She is currently serving on the U.S. National Committee for the International Astronomical Union and is its vice-chair through 2013. In addition, she is serving on the Las Cumbres Observatory Science Advisory Board and NASA's Cosmic Origins Program Assessment Group. Other service to the astronomy and astrophysics community over the past decade includes membership on the Astronomical Society of the Pacific board of directors, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy board of directors, the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's ALTAIR (Access to Large Telescopes for Astronomical Instruction and Research) committee, NSF's Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee's Exo-Planet Task Force Subcommittee, the first NSF "Senior Review" of Facilities, the NASA Origins Sub-Committee of the Office of Space Science FACA structure, as well as numerous science steering or advisory committees for various observatories and facilities. Dr. Hillenbrand received her Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. She was a member of the NRC's Astro2010 Decadal Survey Committee and served on the subsequent Panel on Implementing Recommendations from New Worlds, New Horizons Decadal Survey. She was also a member of the Panel on Ultraviolet, Optical, and Infrared Astronomy from Space of the 2001 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey, and served on the Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics.
ROBERT P. KIRSHNER (NAS) is a professor at Harvard University. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Caltech in 1975. He is a world leader in the study of supernovae and their application to astronomy and cosmology. His work on Supernova 1972E, explorations of large-scale structure, studies of Supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud, and new methods for measuring extragalactic distances have all been fundamental contributions to astrophysics. He is an observational astronomer who uses supernova explosions to measure the size and motion of the Universe. This work contributed to the discovery of cosmic acceleration that led to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 for two of his graduate students. He has also been engaged in efforts to measure the distribution of galaxies in three dimensions through large redshift surveys. Dr. Kirshner has served as President of the American Astronomical Society, and as a member of the U.S. National Committee for the International Astronomical Union, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Editorial Board, the Expert Content Group for the Exhibition on Wonders of Science—Subcommittee of the Marian E. Koshland Science Museum Advisory Committee, the Communications Advisory Committee, the Panel on Cooperation with the USSR in High Energy Astrophysics, the Organizing Committee for the First Annual Symposium of Frontiers of Science, the Committee on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics, and the Task Group on the Scope of the Space Telescope Science Institute. He was the vice-chair of the NRC’s Astro2010 Panel on Stars and Stellar Evolution and a member of the Astro2010 Panel on Optical and Infrared Astronomy from the Ground. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.
CHRISTOPHER F. McKEE (NAS) is a professor of physics and of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned his PhD in Physics. His research focuses on the theory of the interstellar medium and of star formation. He helped develop the three-phase model of the interstellar medium, which has been widely used to organize and interpret observational data. He is currently carrying out numerical simulations of star formation. Dr. McKee is a member of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. McKee led the establishment of the Theoretical Astrophysics Center at Berkeley and served as its first director. He subsequently directed the Space Sciences Laboratory and served as the chair for the Department of Physics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and serves as the NAS Section 12 liaison. He previously served on the NRC's Board on Physics and Astronomy, the Committee on Review of Progress in Astronomy and Astrophysics toward the Decadal Vision, and co-chaired the 2000 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey.
RENE A. ONG is professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is an experimental and observational astrophysicist working primarily in the areas of gamma-ray astronomy and cosmic ray physics, using both ground-based and space-borne instruments. He is currently the spokesperson of the VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) observatory and is a member of proposed Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) project. He is also working to develop the balloon-borne GAPS (General AntiParticle Spectrometer) to search for signatures of dark matter in the cosmic rays. Dr. Ong serves as a member of the Physics Research Committee (PRC) of the DESY Laboratory. He received his B.S. in physics from the University of Michigan and his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University. Dr. Ong was an A.P. Sloan Foundation fellow and is a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has been a member of numerous advisory committees, including the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC), the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP), and the NASA Universe Exploration Strategic Roadmap Committee. He chaired a HEPAP sub-panel—the Scientific Assessment Group for Experiments in Non-Accelerator Physics, in 2004. He served on the recent NRC Committee on the Assessment of the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) and on the Astro2010 Decadal Survey’s Panel on Particle Astrophysics and Gravitation. Other NRC service includes membership on the Committee on Scientific Assessment of Proposed U.S. Neutrino Experiments, the Panel on High-Energy Astrophysics from Space, and the Panel on Particle, Nuclear, and Gravitational-wave Astrophysics of the 2000 Decadal Survey in astronomy and astrophysics.
EVE C. OSTRIKER is a professor of astronomy in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland. Her primary astronomical interests focus on the processes of star and planet formation, the dynamics and thermodynamics of the interstellar medium, and the structure and evolution of spiral galaxies. Among other issues, her current work involves investigation of the origin of stellar masses and the control of star formation efficiencies and rates at a wide range of scales. She is also involved in algorithm and tool development for computational hydrodynamics. Dr. Ostriker’s work is primarily theoretical, with technical work involving both the analytic and numerical solution of hydro- and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) flow problems to model astrophysical systems, and development of detailed observational diagnostics from these models. She is a member of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and the International Astronomical Union (IAU). She has served on the advisory board of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, and is currently a member of the American Astronomical Society and the Internaitonal Astronomical Union. Dr. Ostriker’s honors include award of a Guggenheimm Fellowship in 2009. She received her B.A. in physics from Harvard College, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Ostriker previously served on the Astro2010 Decadal Survey’s Panel on Planetary Systems and Star Formation. She was also a member of the NRC’s Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics (2003-2006), the Panel to Review Terrestrial Planet Finder Science Goals, and the Panel on Theory and Computation in Astronomy and Astrophysics of the 2000 astronomy and astrophysics decadal survey.
MARCIA J. RIEKE (NAS) is a Regents’ Professor of Astronomy and an astronomer in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. Her research interests include infrared observations of galactic nuclei and high-redshift galaxies. She has served as the deputy principal investigator on the near-infrared camera and multi-object spectrometer for HST (NICMOS), and she is currently the principal investigator for the near-infrared camera (NIRCam) for the James Webb Space Telescope. Dr. Rieke has worked on the Spitzer Space Telescope as a co-investigator for the multiband imaging photometer, as outreach coordinator, and as a member of the Science Working Group. She was also involved with several infrared ground observatories, including the Multiple Mirror Telescope in Arizona. Dr. Rieke is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received her PhD in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Rieke currently serves on the NRC’s Space Studies Board. Her previous NRC service includes as co-vice chair of the Astro2010 Decadal Survey steering committee, as a member on the 2000 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey Steering Committee, as a vice chair on the Panel on Ultraviolet, Optical, and Infrared Astronomy from Space for the 2000 survey, and as a member on the Steering Committee for the Task Group on Space Astronomy and Astrophysics and the U.S. National Committee for the International Astronomical Union.
J. CRAIG WHEELER is the Samuel T. and Fern Yanagisawa Regents Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was chair of the department from 1986 to 1990. He was a Research Fellow at Caltech working in Nobel Laureate Willy Fowler's group from 1969 to 1971. From 1971 to 1974, he was an Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Harvard. In 1974, he moved to Texas as an Associate Professor of Astronomy. He specializes in the astrophysics of violent events: supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, gamma-ray bursts and the relation of these events to astrobiology. He was elected to the Academy of Distinguished Teachers at the University of Texas in 2002 and won a state-wide Regent’s Teaching Award in 2010. He served as President of the American Astronomical Society, and chair of the NASA Senior Review of Operating Missions. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society since 2007 and was awarded the Hyer Award for Best Dissertation Supervisor of the Texas Section of the American Physical Society in 2008. He has published nearly 300 papers in refereed journals and many conference proceedings and has edited books on supernovae and accretion disks. He has also written a popular astronomy book, "Cosmic Catastrophes: Supernovae, Gamma-Ray Bursts and Adventures in Hyperspace" the second edition of which was released in December 2006. Dr. Wheeler has served on numerous NRC committees, including the Space Studies Board, the Committee on the Astrophysical Context of Life, the Committee on the Scientific Context for Space Exploration, and the Committee on an Assessment of Balance in NASA's Science Programs, among others.
ERIC M. WILCOTS is a Professor of Astronomy and Associate Dean for Natural and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his Ph.D. in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1993 from University of Washington. He is an observer with broad expertise in the gas content and evolution of galaxies and galaxy groups and the impact of massive stars on the evolution of galaxies. This work includes understanding the distribution and kinematics of neutral hydrogen in and around galaxies, the impact of massive stars on their environment, and the role of active galactic nuclei in the evolution of galaxy groups and structure. He brings knowledge about radio, optical, and infrared astronomy. Professor Wilcots has served on the Users, Visitors, and Program Advisory Committees for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He was also a member of the Associated Universities, Inc. Committee on the Future of Radio Astronomy. He was a member of the Science Working Group for the International Square Kilometer Array project and is a member of the Board of the Southern African Large Telescope. He has also served on the board of the Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-National (WIYN) Optical Astronomical Observatory consortium. Dr. Wilcots served as Chair of the Department of Astronomy at UW-Madison before becoming an Associate Dean in the College of Letters & Science. Dr. Wilcots is also a trustee of the Associated Universities Inc. He was a member of the NRC’s Astro2010 Panel on Galaxies Across Cosmic Time.
A. THOMAS YOUNG (NAE) is chairman of the board of SAIC. Mr. Young previously was president and chief operating officer of Martin Marietta Corporation. Prior to joining industry, Mr. Young worked for 21 years at NASA. At NASA, he directed the Goddard Space Flight Center, was deputy director of the Ames Research Center, and directed the Planetary Program in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters. Mr. Young received high acclaim for his technical leadership in organizing and directing national space and defense programs, especially the Viking program. He is currently a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and of the American Astronautical Society (AAS). Mr. Young received his MS in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was the vice chair of the NRC’s Space Studies Board from 2006-2010 and has extensive NRC experience. Prior committee service includes membership on the Planetary Science Decadal Survey 2013-2022 steering committee, the Astro2010 Decadal Survey steering committee and subsequent Panel on Implementing Recommendations from New Worlds New Horizons Decadal Survey, and the Committee on Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Cooperation on Space and Earth Science Missions.