Sandra Faber is University Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a
staff member of the UCO/Lick Observatory. She is an observational astronomer with research
interests in cosmology and galaxy formation. Some of her major discoveries include the first
structural scaling law for galaxies (called the Faber-Jackson law), large-scale flow
perturbations in the expansion of the Universe caused by superclusters of galaxies, and black
holes at the centers of galaxies. In 1984, she and three colleagues presented the first detailed
treatment of galaxy formation based on “cold dark matter,” which became the standard
paradigm for galaxy and cluster formation in the Universe.
Faber was one of three astronomers who diagnosed the optical flaw in the Hubble Space
Telescope, and she played a major role in its repair. She established the scientific case for the
twin Keck 10 m telescopes, which inspired a subsequent wave of giant optical telescope
building all over the world. From 1994-2005 she was Principal Investigator of the DEIMOS
spectrograph, a large optical multi-object spectrograph for the Keck 2 telescope that is the most
powerful instrument of its kind in the world. She and colleagues used DEIMOS to conduct the
DEEP redshift survey of the distant Universe, which collected spectra of 50,000 distant galaxies
and exploited the immense power of Keck to see and study galaxy formation 10 billion years
back in time. She now co-leads the CANDELS project, the largest project in the history of the
Hubble Space Telescope, to extend our view of galaxy formation back nearly to the Big Bang.
She has co-authored over 350 scientific papers, and her work has been cited over 54,000 times.
Besides the Faber Jackson law, other scaling laws for galaxies co-discovered by Faber include
the mass-age- metallicity relation for elliptical galaxies, the fundamental plane of elliptical
galaxies, and the MBH – σ⁴ relation for massive central black holes in galaxy nuclei.
Faber received her BA degree in Physics from Swarthmore College and her PhD in Astronomy
from Harvard. She is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society and is a Fellow of the
Royal Astronomical Society. She serves on the boards of several organizations including the
Carnegie Institution of Science, Annual Reviews, and (formerly) the Harvard Board of
Overseers. She has received the Heinemann Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the
Antoinette de Vaucouleurs Medal of the University of Texas, the Centennial Medal of the
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, and five honorary degrees from
American colleges and universities.
In 2009, Faber was awarded the Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science from the
Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and in 2012 she received the Bruce Medal of the
Astronomical Society of the Pacific and the Russell Prize of the American Astronomical Society,
both for lifetime scientific achievement. She received the National Medal of Science from
President Obama in February 2013. In November 2017, she received the Gruber Cosmology
Prize from the Gruber Foundation.