Biographical Sketch by Sandra M Faber
July 12, 1995

When she applied to Swarthmore College, Sandra guessed that the nature of the Universe might best be understood by combining its properties in "the small," i.e., physics, with its properties in "the large," i.e., astrophysics. She chose the latter, preferring the romance of the unimaginably large to the mysterious dance of microscopic particles she could never quite get the hang of. However, the conviction that cosmology needed to marry the very large with the very small positioned her later to participate in the tremendous explosion of knowledge in the 1980's that arose from just that concept.

After majoring in Physics and minoring in Mathematics and Astronomy at Swarthmore, Sandra entered graduate school in Astrophysics at Harvard in 1966. Harvard was not well known at that time for optical observational astronomy, her chosen field, but she selected it over Caltech because it was much closer to her future husband, Andrew Faber, who was still finishing at Swarthmore. That was the first of many career compromises that the two of them have made to stay together, and she has never regretted any of those choices.

The main challenge at Harvard was to find a thesis topic on galaxies that could be pursued at Kitt Peak National Observatory, the only facility open to her. Furthermore, as a young graduate student she was limited to one of the smaller telescopes, a problem since galaxies are faint. Sandra settled on a program to do crude spectrophotometry of galaxies using a set of 10 interference filters. She didn't really have a clear idea in mind when proposing this project, and the original program as submitted had far too many galaxies. It was turned down, a major blow. She resubmitted with a more focussed program on elliptical galaxies, was accepted, but was assigned a malfunctioning photomultiplier tube and fell off the rising floor of the telescope the first night. She suffered a concussion and injured her lower back, a problem that became a life-long plague. This thesis was definitely not starting out well! However, the equipment and plan eventually jelled, and the result was the first homogenous body of spectral data on elliptical galaxies showing both colors and absorption-line feature strengths. Sandra noticed that there was a relation between the spectrum and the size of the galaxy - big ellipticals were red and had strong absorption features, while small ones were blue and had weak absorption features. This was the first of many "scaling laws" for elliptical galaxies, some discovered by Sandra and many by others. These laws hold the clues to the formation of ellipticals, and explaining them still occupies much of Sandra's energy nearly 30 years later.

While Sandra was in graduate school, her husband took a job with the Navy to do underwater acoustical research at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.Cooper Sandra had to pick up her studies and find a niche in a new place. She became good at bumming- desk space, library privileges, and computer time. Finally she settled in "paradise," at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, a branch of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in northwest Washington, D.Cooper At DTM's beautiful campus she punched the 75,000 computer cards needed to reduce her thesis photometry and rubbed shoulders with astronomers, Vera Rubin and Kent Ford. These two, more experienced and highly imaginative, were inventing the observational study of dark matter in the Universe (though they didn't know it at the time) and also of irregularities in the expansion of the Universe. At DTM, Sandra absorbed the importance of forging boldly into unknown territory while at the same time maintaining total scientific integrity. Save for "thesis angst," it was a wonderful time.

By great good luck, Sandra was finishing her thesis at just the time that Andy was ready to make a career change. He chose law, which, though neither realized then, would make the future task of finding compatible career positions much easier. In another stroke of remarkably good luck, Andy was accepted to Stanford Law School, and Sandra got an Assistant Professor's post at the institution of her choice, the famous Lick Observatory at UC Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz would prove a wonderful place to raise children, and the Observatory welcomed her with open arms - not a trace of discrimination did she feel as the first female staff member at Lick in its hundred-odd year history. The tenure-track Professorship freed her from the postdoc rat-race that young astronomers have to suffer today - another blessing.

This breather was needed, as Sandra, it turned out, was pregnant on her first day at work. Having postponed children in graduate school because she doubted her ability to have a family and a thesis at the same time, she and Andy decided that the time had come. She was 27. Looking back on this period, it was a good thing she had a tenured position, because it was three years before she published her next research project. Such a hiatus today would kill a promising career. During that time she had a baby, taught four new courses on subjects that she didn't know too well, and laid the ground-work for that all-important next paper. Fortunately it was a good one - a second and more important scaling law for elliptical galaxies. Using a path-breaking new spectrograph at Lick Observatory, she observed very accurate spectra of galaxies and deduced from them the speeds of orbital motions of the stars inside them. Again there was a trend - the bigger ellipticals had stars orbiting more rapidly. The resultant law, known as the Faber-Jackson relation after herself and co-author graduate student Robert Jackson, was a major clue to how galaxies formed, but the explanation would have to wait until 1985, in a paper by Sandra and three colleagues on galaxy formation with "cold dark matter." ["Formation of galaxies and large scale structure with cold dark matter," Nature, 311, 517-525, 1984, with G.R. Blumenthal, J.R. Primack, and M.J. Rees.]

For the next five years, Sandra busied herself with several new kinds of galaxy observations, all designed to break ground using new detectors. Technology was exploding, and it was easy to think of things to do. Sandra has always been interested in technology (she helped get the Keck Telescope started and is now leading the construction of a state-of-the-art new optical spectrograph to go on Keck II). During these years, she helped pioneer the study of interstellar gas in elliptical galaxies using radio telescopes and used an ultraviolet satellite to study their hot-star content. However, the highlights of that period were three quasi-theoretical papers: one on the masses of galaxies with Jay Gallagher, which was very influential in convincing astronomers that galaxies were surrounded by massive, invisible dark halos - the so-called "dark matter" in the Universe - a second, solo paper outlining the glimmerings of an idea for galaxy formation using hierarchical gravitational clustering from density "seeds" produced (somehow) in the Big Bang, and a third paper which brought this idea to fruition with the notion of "cold dark matter." Mentioned above, this paper, with Santa Cruz colleagues Joel Primack and George Blumenthal, was the first comprehensive proposal for how galaxies evolved from the Big Bang to now. The key notion was that small density ripples were impressed on the distribution of matter during an early epoch of "inflation," a crucial concept invented by particle physicists around this time and passed on to cosmologists. Starting with these small density seeds born in a wildly expanding Universe at around 10**(-35) sec. Blumenthal et al. succeeded in accounting (albeit schematically) for most of the observed properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies today. Though probably wrong in certain details, the paper still stands basically unchanged as the current working paradigm for structure formation in the Universe.

In the late 1980's, Sandra was heavily involved in completing an eight-year project with the so-called "Seven Samurai" collaboration. The Seven Samurai (7S) were a lot milder than their name implies - a group of six observers and one theorist who set out, like Don Quixote, on a hopelessly misguided quest that ultimately yielded pay dirt. This is a recurrent theme in Sandra's career - she starts out doing one thing for good reasons, but reality turns out a very different way. In this case, the 7S thought they had discovered a way to determine the true shapes of individual elliptical galaxies, and they needed a homogenous catalog of accurate galaxy sizes and orbital speeds to properly calibrate their method. They set out on an eight-year project to collect data on 400 galaxies. When the dust settled, the original plan was dead - it simply did not work - but instead they had discovered a way to estimate the distance to every galaxy. With these distances they made a map of all the ellipticals around us in space and noticed that the recessional speeds of galaxies (due to the expansion of the Universe) were not exactly as predicted from a simple smooth and uniform Hubble law. Rather, large patches of the Universe were moving away from us too slowly, while others were going too fast. The 7S had rediscovered what Rubin and Ford had announced years earlier: large mass concentrations perturbing the expansion of the Universe in their neighborhood, pulling local matter into them and causing irregularities in the Hubble flow. This phenomenon has since matured to become one of the best ways to measure the total mass density of the Universe, and hence whether it will continue to expand forever or one day recollapse. Sandra continues to work on this subject, acting as a data aide to other astronomers who are mathematically more gifted than she, since that is what the subject now requires.

A little bit before this time, in 1985, Sandra got involved with the construction of the Keck Telescope and the building of the first Wide-Field Planetary Camera for the Hubble Space Telescope. In retrospect, it was idiotic to join two such demanding projects (she seems to be the only astronomer in the country who has a major role in both), but she could not resist. The two together are making her life miserable (but exciting) even to this day. Keck, the world's largest optical telescope at 10 m in diameter and with a novel primary mirror comprised of 36 hexagonal segments, was the brainchild of UC Berkeley physicist Jerry Nelson, but Sandra helped it along by building up the scientific case and selling the idea of large optical telescopes all over the world. The current wave of 6-10 m telescopes can be traced to the birth of the Keck project at UCB and Lick. During the building phase, Sandra co-chaired the Science Steering Committee that oversaw the construction of the first-light instruments for Keck I and provided other important scientific guidance, among other things a relentless insistence on high optical quality for the primary mirror.

In 1990 Sandra took a break from the Keck project and spent nearly a year in residence on the East Coast to assist with the on-orbit commissioning of the Wide Field Planetary Camera for Hubble. This has so far been the most exhilarating phase of her career. As is well known, the optics of the Hubble were flawed, and Sandra and her WFPC Team members played a major role in the diagnosis of spherical aberration. After the announcement, the Team proceeded to scrap 10 years of planning and rethink the project from scratch, with a new, flawed telescope of unknown capabilities. Work weeks were routinely 100 hours long with no days off for weeks on end. The Hubble refurbishment was a sweet moment for Sandra, who remembered serving on the committee during the dark days of summer 1990 that conceived and recommended the refurbishment plan.

Still involved with technology, Sandra is now deeply enmeshed in the aforementioned new spectrograph for the second Keck II telescope (money was found for <I>two</I> Kecks!). Called DEIMOS (for DEep Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph), this device will increase the power of the Keck Telescope for studying distant galaxies by 13-fold. With it, Sandra and Santa Cruz colleagues Garth Illingworth and David Koo plan to look deeply into the Universe and far back in time to see galaxies forming billions of years ago. These observations, they hope, will provide the ultimate test of galaxy formation theories.

Sandra lives now in Los Gatos CA with her husband Andy, who practices law in San Jose, specializing in litigation, land use, and municipal law. Their older daughter Robin graduated recently from Princeton and is seeking a career in an art-related field (a challenge!). Their second daughter Holly will enter medical school after finishing a degree in history at Wesleyan University, perhaps one day to become an endocrinologist.

Sandra has two maxims for life. First, life should be fun. There will be bad days and stressful days, but overall it should be fun. If a job is not fun, look for something else. The second maxim is that you can easily do one difficult thing, with effort you can do two difficult things, and with a great deal of effort plus a lot of luck, you might even be able to do three difficult things. Don't even consider four things. Sandra, with much effort and lots of luck, has pursued three goals - an exciting research career, a career as a mentor and teacher of students, and a wonderfully satisfying family life (with the help and support of her husband Andy).