Nicholas Z. Scoville

California Institute of Technology

Primary Section: 12, Astronomy
Secondary Section: 13, Physics
Membership Type:
Member (elected 2022)

Photo Credit: Bob Paz (Caltech)_NG


Nick Scoville is the Francis L. Moseley Professor of Astronomy, Emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology in the United States. He is a leading expert in the field of galaxy formation and evolution, the nature of the dense interstellar molecular gas in galaxies, and star formation, and a pioneer in millimeter-wave astronomy.
He has published over 600 papers on observational and theoretical astrophysics in internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals and has almost 42,000 citations. He is the founder of the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS), which is an international project that is investigating the assembly and evolution of galaxies and their central black holes (active galactic nuclei) and is made up of an international team of about 200 astronomers. The COSMOS survey began using observations from hundreds of orbits on the NASA Hubble Space Telescope and now includes observations from almost every major international ground-based and space-based telescope. It has detected over two million galaxies, tracing the Universe back almost 13 billion years. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy, Scoville was awarded the prestigious Karl G. Jansky Lectureship prize in 2015. In recognition of his "lifetime of outstanding research in astronomy", he was  awarded the Catherine Wolfe Bruce Gold Medal by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) in 2017. He was also awarded the 2021 Russell Prize of the American Astronomical Society for lifetime achievements.  His other previous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Aaronson Award of the University of Arizona, and serving as Bishop Lecturer at Columbia University.
Scoville was previously the director of Caltech's Owens Valley Radio Observatory and has held positions at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has been advisor to 18 Ph.D. students. He holds a Ph.D. in Astronomy from Columbia University (1972).    

Research Interests

The major focus of my current research is the Cosmic Evolution Survey (COSMOS) which focuses on the assembly and evolution of galaxies and their central black holes (AGN) at redshifts from 0.2 to 6. This survey was started in 2004 with 600 orbits on HST to image a 2 square-degree equatorial field, but it now includes imaging and spectroscopy from virtually every large space and ground-based telescope. Over a million galaxies are detected out to redshift 6 when the universe was only a billion years old; the survey is therefore equivalent to the Sloan survey of the local universe but covering the period of maximum galaxy and AGN evolution at z > 1. My articles have mapped out the Large Scale Structure in the COSMOS field and the correlation of galaxy properties with their location (i.e. density of the nearby LSS). Most recently, I used the long wavelength infrared measurements from ALMA to estimate the interstellar gas and dust contents of 700 galaxies out to z  = 6 - this sample is approximately 20 times larger the samples measured in the CO lines at high redshift and the estimates are more reliable as judged from calibration data.

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