John O’Meara, Chief Scientist

John M. O’Meara

Chief Scientist



John is the primary scientific liaison for the observatory, and is responsible for maintaining the relationship between the observatory and its scientific  stakeholders including the observing community and federal funding agencies.  John helps set the science policy for the observatory, and is responsible for identifying new partnership and funding opportunities.  He is a member of multiple national astronomical oversight and advisory committees, and is the current chair of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee.  John is an experienced observational research astrophysicist using ground and space-based facilities in the UVOIR.  He has a strong interest in and experience with federal science policy and strategic planning.  John is a member of multiple large national and international research teams, and multiple science definition teams for future telescope facilities. John has been a Keck observer for over two decades.


  • 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)