David J. McComas Ph.D.

Professor of Astrophysical Sciences
Vice President for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Associated Faculty in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
Email Address: 
dmccomas AT princeton.edu
Office Location: 
128 Peyton Hall
PDF icon CV

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)


Dave McComas is the Princeton University Vice President (VP) for the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) and Professor of Astrophysical Sciences. 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 Boards of Directors of the Brookhaven National Laboratory Science Associates. 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 (AAAS). He has received numerous awards and accolades including the 2014 COSPAR Space Science Award, a NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2015, and AGU’s James B. Macelwane Award in 1993.

Research Interests

Prof. McComas’ 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 lead 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 (additional link), scheduled to launch in 2024.

Prof. McComas has invented a variety of instruments and missions for space applications and holds seven patents. He is an author of over 650 scientific papers in the refereed literature spanning topics in heliospheric, magnetospheric, solar, and planetary science as well as space instrument and mission development. These papers have generated over 32,000 citations, with h=85 - see Google Scholar.


Prof. McComas is currently developing a unique hands-on space physics laboratory class at Princeton, geared for upper level undergraduates from engineering and the physical sciences. He previously taught Fundamentals of Space Physics, Heliospheric Physics, and another Space Physics Lab class at the University of Texas, San Antonio. He is actively seeking Princeton undergraduate and graduate students interested in learning about and participating in experimental and observational space physics.