Senate Faculty


Steven Kahn

Dean of Mathematical & Physical Sciences, Professor of Physics, Astronomy

210B Durant, 601B Campbell


Specialty Areas

Cosmology, Time-Domain Astronomy, Astronomical Instrumentation, X-ray astronomy, Space Science.

Research Interests

In recent years, Prof. Kahn’s primary research activities have centered around the development of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, for which he was the former Director.  He is currently working on the design and operation of the active optics controls system, using novel techniques from data science.  As a member of the Dark Energy Science Collaboration, Kahn is interested in exploiting the capabilities of Rubin for weak lensing science, once the facility comes on line in 2025.  He has also written papers on novel ways to use Rubin to detect fast optical bursts – ultrafast transients that could be the counterparts of fast radio bursts.

At an earlier stage in his career, Kahn’s research involved high resolution X-ray spectroscopy of cosmic sources, including the development of X-ray spectroscopic instrumentation, both laboratory and theoretical studies of the atomic physics of cosmic plasmas, and the interpretation of X-ray spectroscopic data from both Chandra and XMM-Newton.


Prof. Kahn received his undergraduate degree in Physics from Columbia University in 1975, and his PhD in Physics from UC Berkeley in 1980.  He was: Center Postdoctoral Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (1980-82), Asst. Prof. of Physics at Columbia (1982-1984), Asst., Assoc., and Full Prof. of Physics and Astronomy at Berkeley (1984-95), I.I. Rabi Prof. of Physics at Columbia (1995-2003), and Cassius Lamb Kirk Prof. In the Natural Sciences at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab (2003-2022).  He returned to Berkeley in 2022 to take up his present position as Dean of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Prof. of Physics and Astronomy.  Kahn is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.