Alexander Sandor Szalay is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at the Johns Hopkins University, with a joint appointment in the Departments of Physics and Astronomy and Computer Science. He is the Director of the Institute for Data Intensive Science and Engineering (IDIES). He is a cosmologist, working on the statistical measures of the spatial distribution of galaxies and galaxy formation. He has been the architect for the archive of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. He is a Corresponding Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2004 he received an Alexander Von Humboldt Award in Physical Sciences, in 2007 the Microsoft Jim Gray Award. In 2008 he became Doctor Honoris Causa of the Eotvos University, Budapest. In 2015 he received the Sidney Fernbach Award of the IEEE for his work on Data Intensive Computing. In 2020 he was awarded the Victor Ambartsumyan International Prize for his work in Physical Cosmology. In 2021 he was a member of the team receiving the ASM SIGMOD Systems prize for their work on the SDSS Archive. In 2021 he was one of the winners of the International Falling Walls Prize in Life Sciences for his work on cancer. In 2023 he has been elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Dr.Szalay’s research started in particle astrophysics. He was among the first to connect dark matter in the universe to elementary particles from the Big Bang, through putting cosmological limits on the mass of neutrinos. His papers also described galaxy formation in a universe dominated by Cold Dark Matter. He has authored many papers in statistical cosmology and spatial statistics. Over the last two decades he has been working on various interdisciplinary research themes, where the challenge was the size of the data sets. He and his colleagues designed and implemented the archive of the SDSS (Sloan Digital Sky Survey), the astronomy equivalent of the Human Genome Project, a 15TB database, the world’s most used astronomy facility today. He designed novel data intensive computer architectures, winning the Data Challenge at Supercomputing 2008. Dr. Szalay was the founding PI of the National Virtual Observatory, an NSF-funded research project to federate all astronomical data sets in the US. He has added interactive analytics capabilities to the SDSS framework, to be used in other science domains, including life sciences. He has been collaborating with various efforts at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Over the last 5 years he became interested using data intensive computing in creating a petascale database for cancer immunotherapy. The interaction between large scale cell data in pathology is similar to the problems tackled in astronomy.

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Primary Section

Section 12: Astronomy

Secondary Section

Section 13: Physics