Dr. Joel R. Primack specializes in the formation and evolution of galaxies and the nature of the dark matter that makes up most of the matter in the universe. After helping to create what is now called the "Standard Model" of particle physics, Primack began working in cosmology in the late 1970s, and he became a leader in the new field of particle astrophysics. His 1982 paper with Heinz Pagels was the first to propose that a natural candidate for the dark matter is the lightest supersymmetric particle. He is one of the principal originators and developers of the theory of Cold Dark Matter, which has become the basis for the standard modern picture of structure formation in the universe. With support from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy, he has been using supercomputers to simulate and visualize the evolution of the universe and the formation of galaxies under various assumptions, and comparing the predictions of these theories to the latest observational data. He organized and led the University of California systemwide Center for High-Performance AstroComputing (UC-HiPACC) 2010-2015.
Primack shared the APS Forum on Physics and Society Award in 1977 with Frank von Hippel of Princeton for their book Advice and Dissent: Scientists in the Political Arena (Basic Books, 1974; New American Library, 1976). Primack was made a Fellow of the APS in 1988 "for pioneering contributions to gauge theory and cosmology." He was elected to the Executive Committee of the APS Division of Astrophysics 2001-2002. He was a member of the APS Panel on Public Affairs 2002-2004, and chaired the APS Forum on Physics and Society in 2005. In 2004 he chaired the APS committee on NASA funding for astronomy. He has served on numerous advisory panels to DOE, NASA, and NSF. In 2006-07 he served on the Beyond Einstein study of the National Academy of Sciences.
In 1995 Primack was made a Fellow of the AAAS "for pioneering efforts in the establishment of the AAAS Congressional Science Fellows Program and for dedication to expanding the use of science in policymaking throughout government". He has served on the board of the Federation of American Scientists and was a founder of the Union of Concerned Scientists. His popular articles on efforts to protect the near-Earth space environment have appeared in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Science, Scientific American, and Technology Review. He was a member of the AAAS Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, and helped to establish the AAAS Science and Human Rights program. He also served as an adviser to and participant in the Science and the Spiritual Quest project, and as chairman of the advisory committee for the AAAS Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion 2000-2002.
Primack was one of the main advisors for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum's 1996 IMAX film Cosmic Voyage, and he has worked with leading planetariums to help make the invisible universe visible. In addition to more than 200 refereed technical articles in professional journals, Primack has written a number of articles aimed at a more popular audience. These include articles in the World Book Encyclopedia and in publications such as Astronomy, Beam Line, California Wild, IEEE Spectrum, Science, Scientific American, Sky and Telescope, and in the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics. With Nancy Abrams, he is the co-author of The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos (Riverhead/Penguin, 2006) and The New Universe and the Human Future: How a Shared Cosmology Could Transform the World (Yale University Press, 2011), both of which are also available in foreign editions.