New leader for Haystack Observatory

December 15, 2023
Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research, 2013–2024 |

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that Philip J. Erickson will become director of MIT Haystack Observatory on January 1, 2024. Phil will build upon the successful tenure of longtime director Colin J. Lonsdale, who in July shared his intent to step down and renew his focus on research.

Currently Haystack associate director, principal research scientist, and head of Haystack’s Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences Group, Phil is an accomplished radio scientist and ionosphere–magnetosphere researcher with a strong track record of leadership within the Haystack research community and well beyond. As lead principal investigator for the National Science Foundation–sponsored Millstone Hill Geospace Facility, he oversees a major research observatory with internationally significant observational and analytical capabilities. He co-directs Haystack’s student research programs as well as its educational public outreach programs. Through his participation in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Radio Frequencies, he also contributes to national-level discussions around radio frequency requirements and interference protection, informing policy and advocating for the needs of countless radio scientists and engineers.

I would like to thank the members of the search committee for their consultation, especially within the Haystack community, on the priorities for this position. An article in MIT News describes Phil’s background and interests more fully.

Outgoing director Colin Lonsdale

Phil and I are deeply grateful to Colin for his 15-year leadership of Haystack as director. Colin first came to Haystack in 1986, pursuing diverse radio astronomy research topics and low-frequency array developments, and more recently holding a prominent leadership role in the Event Horizon Telescope project. He took up the Haystack leadership post in 2008; as director, he has overseen the Observatory’s strategic direction, diversified its funding streams, and led Haystack through a period of substantial growth in both research volume and staffing in recent years. Colin has said he now looks forward to reviving “long-dormant” threads of research in the study of active galaxies, solar emissions at low radio frequencies, and concepts for innovative radio science space missions, as a principal research scientist.

Please join me in thanking Colin for his service as director and welcoming Phil to his new role. The Observatory and its community of researchers are in excellent hands.


Maria T. Zuber
Vice President for Research