Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe

The Smithsonian plays a fundamental role in understanding the nature of the universe, dark matter, galaxy formation, planetary systems and extreme explosive phenomena.

The Consortia undertake integrative research using next generation technologies focused on:

  • The nature of dark matter and dark energy.
  • Formation and evolution of planets, stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the large scale filamentary structure of the Universe.
  • The behavior of matter in the extreme environments of supernovae, neutron stars and black holes. 
  • Why, when and how life developed on Earth and possibly elsewhere in the Galaxy.
  • Development of prototype instrumentation, innovative software, and novel archiving methods as well as adapting or using existing instrumentation in new, previously unforeseen applications.

The Consortia also showcases science research done by Smithsonian scholars working outside museums on the Mall through exhibition development and planning services as well as logistical support for traveling exhibitions and those involving Smithsonian Affiliates.

Pierre Comizzoli, Director

Pierre Comizzoli, Director

In 2002, Dr. Comizzoli joined the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., as a staff scientist to develop new projects on gamete and gonadal tissue cryo-banking for rare and endangered species. His comparative research on fertility preservation in various wild and domestic animal species creates interesting bridges with human reproductive medicine. In addition to basic research activities, Dr. Comizzoli is coordinating a Smithsonian-wide initiative to improve the management and use of biomaterial and environmental repositories within the Institution. He also is in charge of conservation projects on wild carnivores and ungulates in Northern Africa (Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Sahara Conservation Fund) as well as in South-East Asia (Member of the IUCN/SSC Saola Working Group). Dr. Comizzoli has received several professional awards including the Smithsonian Secretary’s Research Prize (2008 and 2012) and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2011) for his innovative work on fertility preservation. More recently, he has received the Innovation Award from the National Research Council of Thailand (2012) for the first Eld’s deer fawn born after in vitro fertilization and the Secretary’s Award of Excellence (2013) for the Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative.

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Grand Challenge Awards

  • Adapting SAOImage DS9 for General Purpose Hyper-spectral Imaging (2013)
  • Alien Earths: Integrating Exoplanet Research in Exhibits at the National Air and Space Museum (2013)
  • The American Century of Astronomy and Astrophysics (2010)
  • Ancient Basaltic Sand Dunes In Hawaii (2010)
  • Development of Lava Flow Age-Dating Techniques for Evaluating Age and Climatic Histories of Terrestrial and Martian Eolian Deposits (2011)
  • The Development of a Remote Environmental Monitoring Observatory (REMO) (2010)
  • Development of a Traveling Exhibit for Black Holes in High Energy Astrophysics (2010)
  • Discovery Tools: Scientific Instrumentation Across the Smithsonian (2012)
  • The Dynamic Sun Video Wall (2013)
  • The Dynamic Sun Video Wall Exhibit (2013)
  • Earth Analogs for Large Volume Ash Deposits on Mars (2010)
  • Enabling Specimen-Based Study with Innovative Technologies (with AE) (2013)
  • Establishing Collaboration Opportunities in Research Related to Evolution of a Habitable World (2010)
  • The Faint Young Sun Paradox (2012)
  • The Formation and Utilization of the Elements (2013)
  • Lessons from Mars: Are Habitable Atmospheres on Planets around M Dwarfs Viable? (2013)
  • Life in the Cosmos: Basalt Weathering and Associated Microbial Populations (2012)
  • Life and the Cosmos: Building the Consortium (2010)
  • Life and the Cosmos: Testing a Cosmic Ray–Climate–Life Connection (2010)
  • Living in the Anthropocene (2013)
  • Measurements of Trace Gases in the Panama Isthmus (2014)
  • Multi-Instrument Approach to the 3D Characterization of Martian Analogs: Hawaii (2013)
  • A New Method for Studying Interstellar Dust Returned by NASA's STARDUST Mission: Searching for the Building Blocks of the Universe (2010)
  • A Novel Approach to Interdisciplinary X-ray Microanalysis at the Smithsonian (2012)
  • Optimizing CMOS Imaging Detectors for Space-Based X-ray Observations within the Solar System (2013)
  • Phosphorus-poor Terrestrial Ecosystems as a Proxy for Life on Tectonically Inactive Exoplanets (2012)
  • Quantification of Global Volcanic Gas Emissions Using Satellite and Ground-based Instrumentation (2013)
  • Quantifying Volcanic Emissions I (2011)
  • Quantifying Volcanic Emissions II (2011)
  • Studies of Large-Scale Ordered Carbon Structures in the Universe (2012)
  • Was the Solar System Subjected to a Heavy Bombardment at 3.9 Ga? (2010)