Astronomer Claire Max elected to National Academy of Sciences

Claire Max, professor of astronomy and astrophysics.

Claire Max, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of her distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer. Max joins 12 other UCSC faculty who are members of the academy.

"Claire Max is widely admired for her many contributions to plasma physics, astronomy, and astronomical instrumentation," said Sandra Faber, University Professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC.

Max is a pioneer in the field of adaptive optics, a technology that removes the blurring effects of turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere, allowing telescopes on the ground to see as clearly as if they were in space. A coinventor of the laser guide star technique for astronomical adaptive optics, she has helped revolutionize the capabilities of ground-based telescopes.

Max directs the Center for Adaptive Optics, a Science and Technology Center funded by the National Science Foundation and headquartered at UCSC. She has been active in the development of advanced adaptive optics systems for current and future large ground-based telescopes. Her current research in astronomy involves the use of adaptive optics to study merging black holes at the centers of galaxies.

Earlier in her career, Max studied the plasma physics aspects of laser fusion at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). She made important contributions to laser-plasma interactions and to the understanding of astrophysical plasmas.

A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Max received the E. O. Lawrence Award in Physics in 2004. She earned her A.B. degree in astronomy from Harvard University (Radcliffe College) and her Ph.D. in astrophysical sciences and plasma physics from Princeton University. Max joined the UCSC faculty in 1999.

Max is among 72 new members whose election to the academy was announced today. The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.