Robert A. Simcoe is an associate professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he specializes in observational astrophysics, with a particular emphasis on the chemistry of galaxies and intergalactic matter in the early universe. He is interested in the development of optical/infrared instrumentation for ground-based astronomy and in the observation of galaxies and intergalactic matter at the epoch when the universe was at approximately 5–10 percent of its present age.
By studying the strength and spatial variation of intergalactic oxygen and carbon at early epochs, Simcoe is working toward an understanding of when and where the first stars in the universe were formed. Further work in correlating the locations of early galaxies with heavy elements in the nearby intergalactic medium is also leading to some of the first direct physical characterizations of the cycle of galaxy formation, supernova feedback, and chemical enrichment during the peak era of star formation over cosmic time.
Simcoe earned his AB in astrophysical sciences from Princeton University in 1997 and his PhD in astronomy from the California Institute of Technology in 2003. He was awarded a Sloan Research Fellowship in 2009. In 2010, his group commissioned FIRE (Folded InfraRed Echellette), a fully cryogenic infrared spectrometer on the 6.5 meter Magellan telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory, in Chile.