Origins of life, cosmology, star formation, planet formation
Professor Beckwith is interested in nature's leap from chemistry to biology on the prebiotic Earth and how an understanding of that leap will let us infer the likelihood that life has developed elsewhere in the universe. He is investigating how non-equilibrium thermodynamic processes on a small scale may give rise to chemical reaction networks that will become self-sustaining and ultimately evolve to the life we see on Earth today.
Professor Beckwith is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the California Academy of Scieces. He has served as Director of the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie (Heidelberg, Germany), the Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (Baltimore, Maryland), and most recently as the Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies for the ten-campus University of California system (Oakland, California). He has been on the faculties of Cornell University (Professor of Astronomy) and Johns Hopkins University (Professor of Physics and Astronomy) prior to coming to Berkeley in 2008.
The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) is a new science instrument that exploits the latest generation of adaptive optics technology, coronagraphy and detectors. We have successfully commissioned GPI at the Gemini South telescope in Chile and in 2014 we started a three year science program called GPIES (GPI Exoplanet Survey) that will survey 600 stars for the presence of young giant planets.