Professor emeritus Spergel becomes president of Simons Foundation

Friday, Jul 9, 2021
by Jonathan Garaffa

Former advisee Dalcanton named to succeed Spergel at Flatiron Institute

David Spergel, emeritus professor of astronomy at Princeton and the former director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics (CCA) at the Flatiron Institute, became president of the Simons Foundation on July 1. Simons Foundation co-founders Marilyn and Jim Simons selected Spergel for the role in December 2020. The Simons are now co-chairs of the Simons Foundation Board of Directors after stepping down from their day-to-day leadership roles.

Spergel is a leader in cosmology known for his work on NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), a spacecraft which measured temperature differences across the sky in the cosmic microwave background – the radiant heat remaining from the Big Bang. Spergel received the prestigious Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics in 2018 and boasts over 100,000 research citations according to Google Scholar. He is also a MacArthur Fellow and an American Astronomical Society Legacy Fellow.

Succeeding Marilyn Simons, Spergel is only the foundation’s second president. In his new role, he will oversee the Simons Foundation’s work of advancing the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences. “Marilyn and Jim have built an incredible foundation with terrific people,” Spergel said in the Simons Foundation’s announcement, “and it’s an exciting opportunity to build on and extend what they’ve already done. I’m very grateful to them for entrusting me with this opportunity.”

Julianne Dalcanton

Photo Courtesy: Julianne Dalcanton. Photo by Chris Borden.

Astronomer Julianne Dalcanton will succeed Spergel as the new director of the Center for Computational Astrophysics. Currently a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle and chair of the university’s astronomy department, Dalcanton completed her doctorate in astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, where Spergel served as her thesis adviser. Dalcanton’s work primarily focuses on galaxy formation and evolution, and she received the 2018 Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize from the American Astronomical Society in recognition of her outstanding research contributions to astronomy. Starting her tenure as director in September 2021, Dalcanton will lead the center’s work creating and leveraging computational tools to tackle important questions in astrophysics.

Read the Simons Foundation’s announcement about David Spergel and its announcement about Julianne Dalcanton.