Ray Jayawardhana is the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences and a professor of astronomy. He holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University and a B.S. in astronomy and physics from Yale University.
As the leader of the largest and most academically diverse college at Cornell, he is focused on strategic priorities in the areas of faculty renewal and support, research excellence, academic innovation and student experience, and public engagement and impact.
As a prolific researcher, he uses the most advanced telescopes on the ground and in space to do ‘remote sensing’ of planets around other stars (“exoplanets”), and is co-author of over 140 papers in scientific journals.
He is also a writer whose articles have appeared in publications including The Economist, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and Scientific American. His book “Strange New Worlds” was the basis for “The Planet Hunters” television documentary on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.; his book “Neutrino Hunters” won the CSWA Book Award. His latest, a picture book for children titled “Child of the Universe,” was published by Penguin Random House in 2020.
Jayawardhana’s research, writing and outreach have led to numerous accolades, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, Steacie Prize, McLean Award, Radcliffe Fellowship, and Rutherford, Nicholson and Carl Sagan Medals.
An avid traveler, he has visited more than 55 countries and all seven continents. His travels, for research and writing, have included numerous visits to mountaintop observatories in Chile and Hawaii, a meteorite collecting expedition in Antarctica, a parabolic flight with the European Space Agency, a solar eclipse chase in western Mongolia and a descent into a South African mine with geobiologists.