Professor Canizares earned his BA, MA and PhD in physics at Harvard University. In 1971 he came to MIT as a postdoctoral associate in the Physics Department and the Center for Space Research. He joined the faculty as assistant professor in 1974. He progressed to associate professor of physics in 1978, to professor of physics in 1984, and to his current position as the Bruno Rossi professor of experimental physics in 1997. From 1988 to 1992 he was the head of the Astrophysics Division in the Physics Department; from 1990 to 2002 he was the director of the Center for Space Research (since named the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research); from 2001 to 2006 he served as Associate Provost; from 2006 to 2013 he was Vice President for Research and Associate Provost, and in 2013 he became Vice President.  Professor Canizares is currently the associate director of the Chandra X-ray Observatory Center and a principal investigator on NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, having led the development of the Chandra High Resolution Transmission Grating Spectrometer. He has also worked on several other space astronomy missions, including as co-investigator on the Einstein Observatory (HEAO-2). Professor Canizares’ main research interests are high-resolution x-ray spectroscopy and plasma diagnostics of supernova remnants and clusters of galaxies, X-ray studies of dark matter, X-ray properties of quasars and active galactic nuclei, and observational cosmology.

Professor Canizares serves on the Department of Commerce’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Emerging Technology and Research Advisory Committee and the National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on Science, Technology and the Law.  His past service includes the National Academy of Sciences Governing Council, the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, the NASA Advisory Council, chair of the Space Studies Board of the NRC and of NASA's Space Science Advisory Committee. He is a member of the L-3 Communications, Inc. Board of Directors and he served on the Board of Trustees of the Associated Universities Inc.  Professor Canizares is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the International Academy of Astronautics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Professor Canizares has also received several awards, including decoration for Meritorious Civilian Service to the United States Air Force, a NASA Public Service Medal for his service to the NASA Advisory Council, a NASA Public Service Medal for his contributions to the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Goddard Medal of the American Astronautical Society.