Prof. David J. Helfand
BA (Independent Scholar, Magna cum Laude) Amherst College
David Helfand joined Quest University Canada in 2005 as an advisor to the University. He was a visiting tutor during the University's inaugural semester in the Fall of 2007 and, in September 2008, was appointed President and Vice-Chancellor of the University. He has spent 35 years as a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University where he served as Department Chair and co-Director of the Astrophysics Laboratory for more than half that time. He has also been a visiting faculty member at the university of Copenhagen and spent a year as the Sackler Distinguished Visiting Astronomer at the University of Cambridge.
He is the author of nearly 200 scientific publications covering many areas of modern astrophysics including radio, optical, and X-ray observations of celestial sources ranging from nearby stars to the most distant quasars. He recently completed a major project to survey the Galaxy with a sensitivity and angular resolution a hundred times greater than previously available. The goal is to obtain a complete picture of birth and death (for stars) in the Milky Way.
David has mentored twenty PhD students, but has primarily taught undergraduate courses for non-science majors, including one of his own design which treats the atom as a tool for revealing the quantitative history of everything from human diet and works of art to the Earth's climate and the Universe. In 2004, he implemented a vision he began working on in 1982 that has all Columbia first-year students taking a science course as part of Columbia's famed Core Curriculum. He received the 2001 Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the 2002 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates.
In 2011, he was elected President of the American Astronomical Society, the professional organization of astronomers, astrophysicists, planetary scientists and solar physicists in North America. He will serve in that role until 2015.
A decade ago, David appeared weekly on the Discovery Channel's program Science News, bringing the latest astronomical discoveries to the US television audience. More recently, his television appearances have been limited to more serious matters on Comedy Central's The Daily Show and National Geographic's The Known Universe. David believes he is a better cook than astronomer and, ambiguously, colleagues who have sampled his gastronomical undertakings agree.
David can be reached by email at , or by phone at 604.898.8000 or toll-free in North America at 1.888.QUEST.08 (1.888.783.7808).
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