David John McComas (born May 22, 1958) is an American space plasma physicist, Vice President for Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Professor of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University. He had been Assistant Vice President for Space Science and Engineering at the Southwest Research Institute, full Adjoint Professor[1] of Physics at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), and was the founding director of the Center for Space Science and Exploration[2] at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is noted for his extensive accomplishments in experimental space plasma physics, including leading instruments and missions to study the heliosphere and solar wind: Ulysses/SWOOPS, ACE/SWEPAM, IBEX, TWINS, and Parker Solar Probe. He received the 2014 COSPAR Space Science Award and the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal.

David John McComas
BornMay 22, 1958 (1958-05-22) (age 61)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S.) University of California, Los Angeles (M.S., Ph.D.)
Occupationphysicist, executive
Known forspace scientist and Principal Investigator of multiple space missions


McComas was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1980, and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics from University of California, Los Angeles in 1985 and 1986. He began his space physics career in 1980 with early development work on the SWOOPS instrument for Ulysses, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He moved to SwRI, in San Antonio, Texas, in 2000.

McComas holds six patents[3] and is author of over 550 scientific and technical papers in the refereed literature, spanning topics in heliospheric, magnetospheric, solar, and planetary science as well as space instrumentation and mission development. Together these have garnered over 22,000 citations.[4]

Space missionsEdit

McComas is Principal Investigator of NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) and TWINS (Two Wide-Angle Imaging Neutral-atom Spectrometers) missions, as well as the Parker Solar Probe – Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun[5] instrument suite, and the Ulysses Solar Wind Plasma Investigation (SWOOPS) instrument. He is lead co-investigator for the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) Solar Wind Electron, Proton, Alpha Monitor[6] (SWEPAM), Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment[7] (JADE) instrument on JUNO, and Solar Wind Around Pluto[8] (SWAP) instrument on New Horizons.

McComas is also co-investigator on the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS), Cassini-Huygens Plasma Spectrometer[9] (CAPS), GENESIS[10] discovery mission, POLAR Thermal Ion Dynamics Experiment (TIDE),[11] and IMAGE Midsized Explorer. At Los Alamos he was also Principal Investigator for a series of Magnetospheric Plasma Analyzers[12] (MPAs) in geosynchronous orbit.

Boards and advisory committeesEdit

McComas serves on the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) Science Associates, and was a member of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC) and chair of the NAC Science Committee.[13] Previously he chaired NASA’s Solar Probe Science and Technology Definition Team[14] (2003 -2008), NASA’s Sun-Earth Connections Advisory Subcommittee (SECAS) 2000-2003, and J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee[15] (1997-1999).

McComas also serves on the board of directors of the Dyslexic Advantage,[16] a 501c3, and is, himself, dyslexic. He also served on the advisory committee for the Scobee Education Center at San Antonio College.

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ University of Texas Faculty Appointments and Titles
  2. ^ Los Alamos National Laboratory Center for Space Science and Exploration
  3. ^ Patents Observer; David J. McComas
  4. ^ Google Scholar; David J. McComas
  5. ^ "NASA Solar Probe Plus Instruments". Archived from the original on 2014-11-21. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
  6. ^ Advanced Composition Explorer; Solar Wind Electron, Proton, and Alpha Monitor (SWEPAM)
  7. ^ JUNO’s JADE Instrument on YouTube
  8. ^ NASA; New Horizons; Solar Wind Around Pluto Instrument
  9. ^ NASA; CASSINI; Plasma Spectrometer
  11. ^ NASA; POLAR; Thermal Ion Dynamics Experiment
  12. ^ Los Alamos Magnetopheric Plasma Analyzers
  13. ^ NASA Advisory Council Science Committee
  14. ^ NASA Solar Probe Science and Technology Definition Team
  15. ^ "J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee". Archived from the original on 2014-12-06. Retrieved 2014-09-16.
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ COSPAR Space Science Award