Yale’s Debra Fischer to Lead the Division of Astronomical Sciences at the National Science Foundation

Debra Fischer, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astronomy at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, has been appointed director of the Division of Astronomical Sciences at the National Science Foundation. The directorship will continue for a minimum of three years. Dr. Fischer will relocate to Washington, D.C. for the new job, but will continue to oversee her Yale research. She is the first Yale faculty member to be selected for the role.

As director, Dr. Fischer will lead NSF’s mission to set national astrophysics science priorities, guide and support a broad range of ongoing research, and develop new instrumentation. Professor Fischer said that in addition to helping prioritize research, she wants to advance diversity and inclusivity in science. And she will promote efforts to combat climate change.

Dr. Fischer is a pioneer in the discovery of exoplanets — planets orbiting other stars. Her work has led to the detection of hundreds of extrasolar planets and the identification of key correlations between the chemical composition of stars and planet formations. She has published 292 peer-reviewed articles in astronomy or instrumentation journals, six book chapters, and an online textbook, Origins and the Search for Life in the Universe.

“Debra’s excellence as a researcher, teacher, and leader in her field makes her a perfect fit for this new, national role in shaping astrophysics priorities for institutions across the country,” said Jeffrey Brock, dean of science in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale University.

Professor Fischer joined the Yale faculty in 2009. From 2003 to 2008, she taught at San Francisco State University. Dr. Fischer is a graduate of the University of Iowa. She holds a master’s degree in physics from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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