Simons Observatory

  • Awardees
  • Brian Keating, Ph.D. University of California, San Diego
  • Mark Devlin, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania
  • Adrian Lee, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
  • Kam Arnold, Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Suzanne Staggs, Ph.D. Princeton University
Year Awarded


The Simons Foundation, together with the Heising-Simons Foundation, has awarded a five-year, $40-million grant to establish the Simons Observatory, a new astronomy facility in Chile’s Atacama Desert that will merge and expand existing efforts to explore the evolution of the universe from its earliest moments to today.

A series of short films, produced by the Simons Foundation, chronicles the work of scientists as they develop the Simons Observatory:

The Eternal Sky: A Short Film about Building the Simons Observatory
The Eternal Sky, Part 2: The Hunt for Inflation

Brian Keating is a cosmologist at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of 100+ publications and two patents. He received his B.S. from Case Western Reserve University and his Ph.D. from Brown University in 2000 and was an NSF fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He received the 2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at the White House. He co-leads the POLARBEAR/Simons Array collaborations in Chile. He is a private pilot with multi-engine turbine ratings and a trustee of MoMath and the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Mark Devlin is the Reese W. Flower Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1993 and his B.A. in physics and math from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988. His research is primarily in the area of cosmology and the evolution of structure in the universe as well as extra-galactic and galactic star formation. To further this work, his group at the University of Pennsylvania specializes in the design and construction of novel telescopes and cryogenic receivers operating at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. He is the currently the co-director of the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, ACT (NSF); the PI for the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Telescope, BLAST (NASA); and the PI of the MUSTANG instrument in the Green Bank Telescope (NSF). He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and currently sits on NASA’s Astrophysics Sub-Committee.

Adrian Lee is a professor of physics at University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University, where he worked on the development of techniques to directly detect dark matter particles. His current research is in measurements of the 2.7 K cosmic microwave background. He participated in the MAXIMA experiment which was one of the first experiments to show that the geometry of the space in the universe is Euclidean and to confirm the presence of dark energy in the universe. He has played a pioneering role in the use of superconducting transition-edge sensors (TES) as bolometers and the development of absorber-coupled and planar-antenna-coupled focal-plane arrays using that technology. He is NSF Principal Investigator of the POLARBEAR and Simons Array experiments in Chile which measure polarized fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, with the goals of characterizing gravitational lensing of the fluctuations and to search for a signal from inflation.

Kam Arnold is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to that, Arnold was the project manager and a co-investigator on the Simons Array project, the cutting-edge cosmic microwave background (CMB) polarization experiment currently deploying to the Chilean Atacama Desert. He received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, working on the precursor to the Simons Array — POLARBEAR — which produced the first non-zero measurement of B-mode polarization in the CMB using CMB data alone.

Suzanne Staggs is currently the Henry deWolf Smyth Professor of Physics at Princeton University, after having served as a Hubble Fellow at the University of Chicago for two years. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University in 1993, and her B.A. in physics from Rice University in 1987. Staggs is currently on the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee of the NSF and a fellow of the American Physical Society. Her research focus is the experimental study of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, including precise measurements of its electromagnetic spectrum and thus its blackbody temperature, and exploration of its polarization properties and fine-scale angular anisotropies. Her present CMB work focuses on searching for the signature in the CMB polarization of gravity waves from an inflationary epoch in the primordial universe, and in using the CMB as a backlight to probe the growth of gravitationally bound structures in the last 13 billion years. This growth depends on such fundamental quantities as the nature of dark energy and the mass of the neutrino.

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