Director of the University of California Observatories (UCO)
Dr. Claire Max is the Director of UC Observatories (UCO), Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Astronomer in UC Observatories, and Director of the UC Center for Adaptive Optics, all at UC Santa Cruz.
Max joined UC Santa Cruz in 2001, after nearly 30 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She is best known for her contributions to astronomical adaptive optics as a technique for reducing the optical distortions of images taken through the turbulent atmosphere. Her current research focuses on two areas: (1) developing advanced adaptive optics systems for large current and future ground-based telescopes, working closely with colleagues at UC Santa Cruz, the W. M. Keck Observatory, California Institute of Technology, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and (2) using adaptive optics to observe dual active galactic nuclei (galaxies with black holes in their cores) that are involved in galaxy mergers. Her exceptional scientific accomplishments have led to multiple honors including her election to the National Academy of Sciences, as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and membership in the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the International Society for Optics and Photonics. She is a recipient of the Department of Energy’s E.O. Lawrence Award in Physics and of Princeton University’s James Madison Medal.