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) Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, and Participating Faculty in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. As VP, he also serves on the Princeton University President's Cabinet, President's Council, Executive Compliance Committee, and the Brookhaven National Laboratory Science Associates Boards of Directors.  He recently served on the National Academies Space Studies Board (SSB) and 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 received numerous awards and accolades, including the National Academy of Science's Arctowski Medal in 2023, the European Geosciences Union's 2022 Hannes Alfvén Medal, the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) 2022 Distinguished Scientist Award, AGU's 2018 Eugene Parker Lecture, 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 Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission, and Two Wide-Angle Imaging Neutral-Atom Spectrometers (TWINS) Explorer Mission-of-Opportunity, as well as 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.

Prof. McComas has invented various instruments and missions for space applications and holds seven patents. He is an author of over 750 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 46,000 citations, with h=107 see Google Scholar or Publications page.


Prof. McComas currently teaches the yearlong Space Physics Laboratory class (AST-250/251) – a hands-on experience for Princeton undergraduates working together on a significant and open-ended experimental project in the Space Physics Laboratory alongside the development of NASA flight hardware. 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, Senior Theses, and graduate dissertations in experimental and observational Space Physics.