David Helfand
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David Helfand

Fee Range1: $ 4000 - $6000

Professor of Astronomy, Astrophysicist


EnvironmentFutureGlobal WarmingScience



David Helfand

David HelfandProfessor of Astronomy, Astrophysicist

David J. Helfand has served on the faculty of Columbia University in New York for forty-two years, nearly half that time as Chair of the Department of Astronomy. He has also spent three years at the University of Cambridge, most recently as the Sackler Distinguished Visiting Astronomer, and earlier was a visiting scientist at the Danish Space Research Institute and the University of Copenhagen. He is the author of over 200 scientific publications and has mentored 22 PhD students, but most of his pedagogical efforts have been aimed at teaching science to non-science majors, including a course of his own design that 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; this course was released as a 24-lecture set by The Teaching Company. Fifteen years ago, he finally succeeded in implementing a vision he began working on in 1982 that has all Columbia first-year students taking his science course as part of Columbia’s famed Core Curriculum. He received the University’s 2001 Presidential Teaching Award and the 2002 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates.

In 2005, he became involved in the effort to create Canada’s first independent, non-profit, secular university, Quest University Canada. He was a Visiting Tutor in the University’s inaugural semester in the Fall of 2007 and served as President & Vice-Chancellor from the Fall of 2008 through 2015 leading this innovative experiment in higher education. He is currently involved in creating other new universities based on this model in England, Wales, and Vietnam.

From 2011-2014, Prof. Helfand served as President of the American Astronomical Society, the professional organization of astronomers, astrophysicists, planetary scientists and solar physicists in North America. His is currently Chair of the Board of the American Institute of Physics. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Science Counts, an organization formed to communicate with the public about the importance and impact of publicly funded fundamental research.

Some time ago, he 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 the National Geographic channel series, The Known Universe. He believes he is a better cook than astronomer and, ambiguously, most of his colleagues who have sampled his gastronomical undertakings agree.

His first book released last year and entitled “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age”, provides essential tools any informed citizen must have to combat the tsunami of mis- and dis-information that threatens to drown all rational approaches to personal decision-making and the formation of good public policy.



“Global Climate Change: What We Know and What We Don’t Know”

“A Grand Tour of the Universe”

“New Worlds”

“The Universal Timekeepers: Reconstructing History Atom by Atom”

“Einstein: His Genius and his Universe”


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