Dr. Lynn Cominsky
Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Sonoma State University
Dr. Lynn Cominsky joined the faculty at Sonoma State University in 1986; she has been a Professor of Physics and Astronomy since 1991 and Chair of the Department since 2004. In 1992, Dr. Cominsky began collaborating with scientists in the Particle Astrophysics group at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center and at Stanford University. When the Stanford-led Large Area Telescope was selected by NASA in 1999 to be the primary scientific instrument onthe Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (formerly known as GLAST), Dr. Cominsky was chosen to lead the Education and Public Outreach program for the mission. Until 2015, Cominsky also led E/PO programs for the Swift Gamma-ray burst mission, the US part of ESA’s XMM-Newton mission, and NASA’s NuSTAR focusing hard x-ray mission.
Dr. Cominsky has been a Guest Investigator on many X-ray and gamma-ray satellite experiments including: HEAO A-1, EXOSAT, ROSAT, RXTE and the BATSE, EGRET and OSSE experiments on board CGRO. Her observational goals have been to increase the understanding of the physics of mass transfer in neutron star and black hole X-ray binaries. Highlights of Dr. Cominsky’s research career include the discovery of pulsations from the first X-ray transient shown to be in a binary system, the discovery of eclipses from an X-ray burst source, which revealed the first precise orbital period for a low mass X-ray binary, and the discovery of X-ray emission from the only radio pulsar in a binary orbit with a Be star.
For a decade, Dr. Cominsky volunteered time as the Deputy Press Officer for the American Astronomical Society. She remains active organizing press events for Swift, Fermi and occasional astronomical conferences. In these roles, she often interprets astronomical discoveries for the public via broadcast media. In 1993, Dr. Cominsky was named both SSU Outstanding Professor and California Professor of the Year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). In 2008, she was named a fellow of the California Council on Science and Technology and in 2009, she was named a fellow of the American Physical Society, by the Forum on Education. In September 2012, Cominsky was named “Woman Physicist of the Month” by the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics, and in November 2012, she was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) by the Astronomy Division.
More recent awards include the 2016 Education Prize from the American Astronomical Society, the 2016 Wang Family Excellence Award from the California State University and the 2017 Frank J. Malina Education Medal from the International Astronautical Federation. In 2019, she was selected as one of the first 200 Legacy Fellows named by the American Astronomical Society.