Dimitar Sasselov holds the Phillips Chair of Astronomy at Harvard University (United States).
His research explores modes of interaction between light and matter, and their uses in remote sensing. He and his team discovered many planets orbiting other stars with novel techniques he hopes to use to find planets like Earth. Sasselov watches for them by looking for transits, the act of a planet passing across the face of its star, dimming its light and changing its chemical signature. This simple, elegant search method has led to a bounty of newly discovered planets, e.g., by NASA’s Kepler mission, where Sasselov was a founding co-investigator. Kepler monitored 150,000 stars in a four-year hunt for such exoplanets.
Sasselov received a PhD in Physics in 1988 from Sofia University, followed by a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Toronto in 1990. He became an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow in 1999. He holds numerous awards and has lectured in the DLD (Digital Life Design) and TED conference series, and at the World Economic Forum Conference in Davos. Sasselov’s book The Life of Super-Earths (Basic Books, 2012) describes the renewed quest for life beyond the Solar System.
Sasselov is founding director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, a cross-disciplinary institute that brings together biologists, chemists, and astronomers to search for the starting points of life on Earth (and possibly elsewhere).