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David Nathaniel Spergel (born March 25, 1961), is an American theoretical astrophysicist and Princeton University professor (currently chair of the Department of Astrophysical Sciences) known for his work on the WMAP mission. Professor Spergel is a MacArthur Fellow. He has served as the chair of the Astrophysics Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council and was once the W.M. Keck distinguished visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Not only has he focused on deciphering the data that the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) beams back from space, he was part of the team that dreamed up the mission and designed the satellite that would carry it out. Spergel is the Charles A Young Professor of Astronomy and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He shared the 2010 Shaw Prize in astronomy with Charles L. Bennett and Lyman Alexander Page, Jr. for their work on WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe). He shared the 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize with Marc Kamionkowski "for their outstanding contributions to the investigation of the fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background that have led to major breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe"
Spergel was born in Rochester, New York, and attended John Glenn High School, Huntington, NY. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in Astronomy (summa cum laude) from Princeton University in 1982, and was a visiting scholar at Oxford University in 1983. He obtained his master's degree (Astronomy) at Harvard University, 1984, and his doctorate (Astronomy), Harvard University, 1985, with a thesis entitled Astrophysical Implications of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles.
His interests range from the search for planets around nearby stars to the shape of the universe. Over the last few years, the WMAP Satellite has been the main focus of his research. His WMAP papers are currently[when?] the #1 and #2 most cited new papers in all of physics and space science. WMAP was successfully launched on June 30, 2001. He is also interested in understanding how galaxies form and evolve. Spergel's thesis work was on dark matter and he has recently returned to this field, exploring the possibility that the dark matter has strong self-interactions. Dr. Spergel is among a group of scientists and engineers at Princeton University who are developing new technologies attempting to enable the direct imaging of earth-like planets around nearby stars.
Awards and Honors
- Named one of Nature's ten "people who mattered" of 2014 on December 18, 2014, along with Maryam Mirzakhani, Radhika Nagpal, and others.
- "New Jersey Astrophysicist David Spergel Wins 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize". newswise.com. 16 January 2015.
- David Spergel at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
- Gibney, E.; Leford, H.; Lok, C.; Hayden, E.C.; Cowen, R.; Klarreich, E.; Reardon, S.; Padma, T.V.; Cyranoski, D.; Callaway, E. (December 18, 2014). "Nature's 10 Ten people who mattered this year.". Nature 516: 311–319. doi:10.1038/516311a.