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June 12, 2006

Astronomer Sandra Faber awarded Harvard Centennial Medal, elected to Harvard Board of Overseers

By Tim Stephens

Sandra Faber, University Professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC, has been awarded the Centennial Medal of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). The Centennial Medal, first awarded in 1989 on the 100th anniversary of the GSAS, honors alumni for contributions to society that have emerged from their graduate education at Harvard. Faber is one of four Harvard alumni who received the medal this year at a ceremony on June 7.

Photo of Sandra Faber

Sandra Faber

Faber has also been elected to serve on the Harvard Board of Overseers. With 30 members, the board is the larger of Harvard's two governing boards, the other being the President and Fellows of Harvard College (also known as the Harvard Corporation). Members of the Board of Overseers are elected annually by holders of Harvard degrees. Typically, five new members are elected each year to six-year terms. The overseers are responsible for visiting Harvard's schools and departments in order to assess the quality of their programs and recommend improvements, for consenting to certain acts of the corporation, and for providing advice and counsel to the university on a wide range of issues important to Harvard's future.

Faber attended Swarthmore College as an undergraduate, earning a B.A. in physics, and earned her Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard in 1972. She did much of her dissertation research at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington, D.C.

Faber has conducted pioneering research on the formation and evolution of galaxies and the evolution of structure in the universe. Important concepts in cosmology such as "cold dark matter" and the "Great Attractor" are direct results of work by Faber and her colleagues.

She is also a leading authority on telescopes and astronomical instrumentation. Faber has been closely involved with both the Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. She led the design and construction of a powerful spectrograph for the Keck II Telescope called DEIMOS, which she and her collaborators are now using to conduct a large-scale survey of distant galaxies.

Faber's many honors include Harvard University's Bok Prize, the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, and election to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. She joined the faculty of UC Santa Cruz and the UC Observatories/Lick Observatory in 1972. In 1995, she was appointed University Professor, the highest honor for faculty in the UC system.

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