Lisa Kewley named director of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

Lisa J. Kewley.

Photo by Cristy Roberts

3 min read

Lisa J. Kewley has been named the director of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA), effective July 1, 2022. A world leader in the theoretical modeling and observation of star-forming and active galaxies, Kewley brings 20 years of experience in astrophysics to the role.

Kewley currently serves as the director of ASTRO 3D, a $40-million Australian Research Council Center of Excellence that seeks to understand the evolution of matter, light and the elements, from the Big Bang to the present day. She is committed to equity in the workplace, and recently achieved a 50:50 gender balance amongst ASTRO 3D staff through a suite of recruitment and retention initiatives. She also is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Australian National University and an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow.

As director of the Center for Astrophysics, Kewley will oversee about 800 Harvard and Smithsonian staff, in eight scientific divisions across CfA’s nine major scientific facilities and institutes, which include the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona, the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii, and the Chandra X-Ray Center in Massachusetts.

“For decades, the Center for Astrophysics has given the world profound insights into the cosmos,” said Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian. “It is exciting to welcome Dr. Kewley back to the site of her first fellowship, where the Smithsonian can once again benefit from her leadership and brilliance as we seek to understand the fundamental nature of the universe.”

Kewley’s seminal contributions include understanding the gas physics in star-forming galaxies, investigating galaxies containing actively accreting supermassive black holes and tracing the star-formation and oxygen history of galaxies over the past 12 billion years.

“Professor Kewley’s appointment is a source of excitement for the Center for Astrophysics, the Harvard College Observatory, the Department of Astronomy and the broader Smithsonian and Harvard communities,” said Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard. “A versatile and visionary scientist, a dedicated and inspiring teacher and mentor and an exemplary colleague, community builder and institutional citizen, Kewley will undoubtedly build Astronomy and Astrophysics at Harvard to further strength and distinction and provide an even more important resource for scientific inquiry. We are truly delighted that she is joining our academic community.”

Kewley is a former NASA Hubble Fellow, an international member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences. She also is a former CfA fellow, a position she held from 2001 to 2004.

She is a recipient of the James Craig Watson Medal, the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy and the Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy.

“It is an honor to become director of the CfA, said Kewley. “The CfA is a tremendously exciting organization with expertise across the entire spectrum from millimeter and radio waves to X-rays.  I plan to bring people together from across these different areas to answer some of astronomy’s biggest questions, and at the same time, ensuring a positive and supportive environment for all CfA members.”