John O’Meara named Keck’s chief scientist

  • John O’Meara

WAIMEA — W. M. Keck Observatory announced John O’Meara’s appointment as chief scientist, effective Dec. 3.

“We are very pleased to welcome John as the Chief Scientist of Keck Observatory,” said W. M. Keck Observatory Director Hilton Lewis, in a press release Wednesday. “In this role, he will be responsible for the stewardship of the observatory’s scientific programs and for ensuring the well-being and vibrancy of the science conducted at our observatory.”

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O’Meara comes to Keck Observatory from St. Michael’s College in Vermont, where he was most recently a professor and chair of the Department of Physics. He brings more than two decades of ground and space-based observational experience as a research astrophysicist. He is a longtime Keck observer, and this year, he is celebrating his 20th anniversary of observing at the Observatory.

“I am proud and honored to be part of the Keck astronomer family,” O’Meara said. “I’m delighted to take on this new role, and to work with the entire Keck community to ensure the observatory’s leadership of ground-based astronomy for the next decade and beyond.”

As Keck Observatory’s chief scientist, O’Meara will serve as a key advisor to the observatory director on all matters of science policy and strategy. He has extensive experience in this arena through his role as the cosmic origins science team lead for the Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR) mission concept, a multi-wavelength space observatory concept for NASA.

A proven leader in the national astronomy community, O’Meara has a deep interest in ensuring the health and success of the field. He serves as chair of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee, which reports to Congress on astronomy and astrophysics issues that are of mutual interest to the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy Office of Science.

O’Meara is an expert in investigating the early universe just moments after the Big Bang, and has published more than 75 papers in refereed journals about distant quasars, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, the intergalactic medium, galaxy formation and evolution, and more.

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O’Meara obtained his PhD at the University of California, San Diego, and did his postdoctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I am excited to bring John on board,” Lewis said in the press release. “He brings a clear scientific vision with a broad external perspective, proven collaborative ability, and a strong intellect to the Observatory. I believe he will perform admirably as our Chief Scientist.”