John O’Meara, Deputy Director & Chief Scientist


John is Keck Observatoryʻs primary scientific liaison and is responsible for maintaining the relationship between the Observatory and its scientific stakeholders, including the observing community and federal funding agencies. He helps set the science policy for the Observatory and is responsible for identifying new partnership and funding opportunities.

John has a deep interest in ensuring the health and success of the field. He is a member of multiple national astronomical oversight and advisory committees. Currently, he chairs the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee, which reports to Congress on astronomy and astrophysics issues that are of mutual interest to the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. He also serves as the Cosmic Origins science team lead for the Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor (LUVOIR) mission concept, a multi-wavelength space observatory concept for NASA.

John has been a Keck observer for over two decades. He is an experienced observational research astrophysicist, authoring more than 75 papers published in refereed journals about distant quasars, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, the intergalactic medium, galaxy formation and evolution, and more.


  • University of Washington, B.S., Physics, 1997
  • University of California, San Diego, M.S., Physics, 2000
  • University of California, San Diego, Ph.D., Physics, 2004


  • Chief Scientist; W. M. Keck Observatory, Kamuela, HI; 2018-present
  • Professor; Saint Michael’s College, Colchester, VT; 2008-2018
  • Assistant Professor; Penn State University, Scranton, PA; 2006-2008
  • Postdoctoral Researcher; MIT, Cambridge, MA; 2004-2006

Research Interests:

  • Big Bang Nucleosynthesis
  • The Circumgalactic and Intergalactic Medium
  • Galaxy Formation and Evolution
  • Future Ground and Space Telescope Development

Professional Experience:

  • Chair, Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee
  • Cosmic Origins Science Team Lead for the LUVOIR Large Mission Concept
  • Member, Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, AAS
  • Member, Thirty Meter Telescope ISDT
  • Co-Chair, MAST Users Group
  • Member, Senior Review of Operating Missions, NASA (2019)
  • Member, SPRITE Cubesat Science Mission Team
  • Previous Vice-Chair, NASA COPAG Executive Committee
  • Panelist/Chair, Extragalactic Astronomy, NASA Keck TAC
  • Frequent panel member & panel chair for NASA, NSF, STScI proposal reviews
  • Member, Science team, NASA Explorer-class mission proposal (2011, 2016)
  • 90+ refereed publications and multiple large funded grants as principal investigator
  • 20+ years of ground and space-based observing experience
  • Elected member of the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering

Selected Publications:

Research Collaborations:

  • LUVOIR Large Mission Concept
  • Keck Observatory Database of Ionized Absorption towards Quasars (KODIAQ)
  • Figuring Out Gas in Galaxies (FOGGIE)