Outstanding Faculty Award Announcement

Jan 8, 2021 | Faculty & Staff, From the Dean

To: All Divisional Faculty and Staff
From: Dean Paul Koch
Subject: Outstanding Faculty Award 2019-21

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Steven Ritz, Distinguished Professor of Physics, is this year’s winner of the division’s Outstanding Faculty Award. This award is the division’s highest honor for faculty achievement, recognizing combined excellence in research, teaching, and service.

Steve has been a faculty member at UC Santa Cruz since 2009. He is an internationally recognized scholar and scientific leader, and during his time here has proven to be an exceptional teacher and an invaluable asset to the campus in innumerable ways.

Steve rose to prominence as a leader of the FERMI satellite project, which studies the gamma ray sky in search of phenomena that can provide clues to the answers of major questions in astronomy, as well as particle physics and cosmology. The FERMI project has resulted in many significant breakthroughs, including the discovery of many new pulsars and new supermassive black hole systems, studies of astrophysical particle acceleration, searches for signals of particle dark matter, and tests of the fundamental laws of physics. Prior to his arrival at UC Santa Cruz, Steve was the scientific director of the FERMI project for NASA.

Since 2013, Steve has played a critical role in a collaboration to build the world’s largest and most sophisticated astronomical camera, the Large Synaptic Survey Telescope, which was recently renamed the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in honor of the trail blazing astronomer whose work on the properties of galactic rotation provided some of the earliest evidence for Dark Matter. In addition to his role as camera scientist, Steve is also a member of the project’s science team (the small group that provides scientific input on key technical decisions for the project), and is also a member of the publication board. The Rubin Observatory promises to revolutionize astronomy by producing repeated deep and precise images of the entire southern-hemisphere sky.

Shortly after his arrival at UC Santa Cruz, Steve became the Director of the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP). As the administrative leader of the particle physics program at UC Santa Cruz, he managed the institute’s involvement in a broad array of scientific initiatives, including the fields of particle physics and particle astrophysics, cosmology, neuroscience, and advanced sensor R&D. Under his guidance, SCIPP has flourished and its international reputation has burgeoned. SCIPP is an increasingly prominent generator of new ideas and technologies, and a sought-after collaborator in a number of allied scientific arenas. After a decade of outstanding leadership, Steve stepped down as SCIPP Director last month.

In 2013-14, Steve served as chair of the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Panel (P5), appointed by the Department of Energy to establish priorities for the field of particle physics. He played a vital role in the Snowmass Review process of the particle physics community.

Alongside his extensive research and leadership efforts, Steve has emerged as one of the leading teachers in the Physics Department, and indeed on the campus, receiving an Outstanding Teaching Award in 2011-12. His evaluations are consistently extremely strong, and his office is regularly filled with students. He is always exploring ways to improve and modernize his teaching and urging the rest of us to do the same. Steve also plays a variety of critical roles within the Physics Department. Most prominent of these is his participation on the department’s Committee on Diversity and Climate, for which he served as chair during the prior academic year. One of several examples of the committee’s accomplishments this past year includes its establishment as an official American Physical Society IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance) network site.

In closing, Steve Ritz is an extraordinary individual whose leadership, research, and devotion to teaching and service have made him an invaluable member of our campus and community. Please join me in congratulating Steve for his many accomplishments!


Paul L. Koch
Dean, Physical and Biological Sciences
Distinguished Professor, Earth and Planetary Sciences

If you have any questions or comments, please contact dean.science@ucsc.edu