Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory Names New Vice President

David McComas. Photo: Southwest Research Institute.
David McComas. Photo: Southwest Research Institute.

David McComas has been named vice president of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and has also been appointed as a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University.

McComas, the assistant vice president of space science and engineering at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, will begin his new role in early April.

He succeeds Princeton University Physics Professor A.J. Stewart, a former dean for research at Princeton who has served as vice president for the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab since 2013. He is retiring in April of 2017 after a sabbatical.

The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, located on Princeton University’s Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas and developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy.

The vice president of the lab serves as Princeton University’s primary liaison with the Department of Energy, and is responsible for the management and operation of the laboratory. The vice president also works to identify and support opportunities for collaborative research and other activities with the main Princeton campus.

“I am absolutely delighted that Dave will be joining us at Princeton,” Princeton University Provost David Lee said. “He will bring years of deep experience and a commitment to the missions of the lab and the University that will serve both extremely well. He is a distinguished scientist with an outstanding record of research, while also having a demonstrated record of successful leadership at both SwRI and Los Alamos National Laboratory.”

McComas has served as the principal investigator for several space missions. He has worked at the Southwest Research Institute since 2000, helping lead the success and growth of the space science and engineering division.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in geophysics and space physics from the University of California-Los Angeles.He was a founder of a joint at the Southwest Research Institute. and University of Texas-San Antonio graduate program in physics.

McComas joined the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1980, and held a number of roles at the lab over 20 years. He was the founding director of the Center for Space Science and Exploration, and was responsible for leading all civilian space programs at Los Alamos.

His scientific work includes numerous patents for mass spectrometry and other instruments. He has published more than 500 scientific and technical papers. He has served on numerous committees focused on developing programs in science, technology and engineering. In 2015, he completed a two-year term on the NASA Advisory Council. In 2015, he completed a two-year term on the NASA Advisory Council science committee.

McComas said he is thrilled to start his new job at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

“The work of the lab is incredibly important to the nation and the world both scientifically and in helping to lead to what will surely be humanity’s ultimate energy source,” McComas said.