Debra Fischer is an astronomer who works on the detection and characterizations of planets that orbit other stars. She is known for spectroscopic analysis that identified and quantified a correlation between the chemical composition of host stars and the formation of gas giant planets. She has spent her professional career working on instrumentation and statistical methods for improving radial velocity measurement precision with the goal of detecting planets similar to the Earth. Fischer was born in Des Moines, Iowa and earned a B.S. in nursing at the University of Iowa. After working as a surgical nurse for a few years, she changed direction and began studying physics. She earned a M.Sc. in physics from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, Fischer joined the faculty at San Francisco State University from 2003 – 2008 and then joined the faculty at Yale University in 2009. In addition to her primary appointment in Astronomy, Fischer has joint appointments at Yale University in the Departments of Earth & Planetary Science and Statistics & Data Science and began serving as the Dean of Academic Affairs in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Yale in 2018.

Research Interests

Fischer began hunting for exoplanets in 1997 by measuring Doppler shifts in the spectra of stars. She has discovered hundreds of extrasolar planets with this technique, including the first known multiple planet system in 1999. Her team is developing next generation spectrometers and machine learning analysis techniques to transition from current state of the art precision of 1 m/s to 0.1 m/s to detect Earth analogues that will be targets in the search for life on other worlds. Fischer was PI for the CHIRON spectrograph (at CTIO in Chile), the VUES spectrograph (at Möletai Observatory in Lithuania) and EXPRES (at the Lowell Observatory DCT in Arizona), which has achieved record-breaking measurement precision. She founded the EXPRES Stellar Signals Project, which releases high-precision EXPRES radial velocity measurements as part of a community challenge to develop methods that isolate the photospheric contributions to radial velocity measurements. Fischer is a co-founder of "Astronomers for Planet Earth" - a movement to activate the communication networks in astronomy to educate, raise consciousness and activism for addressing climate change.

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Primary Section

Section 12: Astronomy

Secondary Section

Section 15: Geology