David J. McComas, Ph.D.

Professor of Astrophysical Sciences
Vice President for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Associated Faculty in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
171 Broadmead, 104B

Ph.D., Geophysics and Space Physics, University of California, Los Angeles (1986)

M.S., Geophysics and Space Physics, University of California, Los Angeles (1985)

B.S., Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1980)



Prof. McComas is the Princeton University Vice President (VP) for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Astrophysical Sciences Professor. As VP, he also serves on the Princeton University President's Cabinet, President's Council, and Executive Compliance Committee.  He serves on the National Academies Space Studies Board (SSB) and the Brookhaven National Laboratory Science Associates Boards of Directors.  He recently served on the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and chaired the NAC Science Committee (NAC-SC), and has served on numerous other national and international committees and panels.  Prof. McComas is a fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), American Geophysical Union (AGU), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award(AAAS).  He has received numerous awards and accolades, including the 2014 COSPAR Space Science Award, NASA's Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2015, and AGU's James B. Macelwane Award in 1993.

Research Interests

Prof. McComas’s research interests span nearly all of space plasma physics (aka Heliophysics), including the solar corona, solar wind, terrestrial and planetary magnetospheres, interstellar pickup ions, and the outer heliosphere and its interaction with the local interstellar medium. He is an experimentalist who has led or participated in dozens of NASA missions, including as principal investigator of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) Mission, the Two Wide-Angle Imaging Neutral-Atom Spectrometers (TWINS) Explorer Mission-of-Opportunity, the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun (ISʘIS) energetic particle instrument suite on Parker Solar Probe and the Ulysses Solar Wind Experiment (SWOOPS).  He is also the lead Co-Investigator for the Solar Wind Electron Proton Alpha Monitor (SWEPAM) instrument on the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE), the solar wind analyzer for the New Horizons mission to Pluto (SWAP), and led the development, launch and initial analysis of the Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment (JADE) on the Juno spacecraft orbiting over Jupiter’s poles. Most recently, Prof. McComas was selected as PI for NASA’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, scheduled to launch in 2025.

Prof. McComas has invented a variety of instruments and missions for space applications and holds seven patents. He is an author of over 700 scientific papers in the refereed literature spanning topics in heliospheric, magnetospheric, solar, and planetary science and space instrument and mission development. These papers have generated over 38,000 citations, with h=99
see Google Scholar or Publications page.


Prof. McComas currently teaches the Space Physics lectures in the graduate experimental course AST-555.  He is also developing a unique first-year Seminar, "Helios: NASA Experiments and the Human Experience," that combines 1) hands-on experience with space data analysis and in the space physics laboratory, 2) learning about the science of the Sun and heliosphere, 3) simultaneously examining our human experience of the Sun throughout the ages, drawing broadly on examples from mythology through the arts. Prof. McComas previously taught Fundamentals of Space Physics, Heliospheric Physics, and a Space Physics Lab class at the University of Texas, San Antonio.  He actively advises various levels of Princeton Students, including Junior Projects and Senior Thesis, in experimental and observational Space Physics.