Peter Schiffer is Princeton University’s dean for research and a professor of physics. As dean, he leads Princeton’s research enterprise and works closely with leaders across campus to develop and support the University’s dynamic research community. Schiffer heads the Office of the Dean for Research, which supports world-class research by helping faculty, staff and students connect with external and internal resources to create knowledge, make discoveries, and address scientific and technical challenges.
Schiffer received his B.S. in physics from Yale University in 1988 and his Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University in 1993. At Stanford, his dissertation work was supervised by Douglas Osheroff, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics, focusing on studies of superfluid and thin films of helium-3 at temperatures within a few thousandths of a degree of absolute zero. After completion of his Ph.D., Schiffer performed postdoctoral research at AT&T Bell Laboratories with Arthur Ramirez, elucidating novel phenomena in magnetic materials.
In his first faculty appointment, at the University of Notre Dame, Schiffer established a research program studying a wide range of magnetic materials as well as the physics of granular materials, e.g., sand. Schiffer moved to a faculty position at The Pennsylvania State University in 2000. Working with collaborators at Penn State, he launched the field of “artificial spin ice” in 2006. In 2007, he assumed the position of associate vice president for research and director of strategic initiatives at Penn State, where he oversaw a range of activities associated with the university-wide research enterprise.
In 2012, Schiffer was appointed as vice chancellor for research and professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In that role, he was responsible for providing leadership for campus-wide interdisciplinary research institutes, promoting new research initiatives, and overseeing the administrative and business processes that ensured the productive, safe and ethical conduct of research. In 2017, he returned to Yale as the inaugural vice provost for research, the first university-wide senior research officer in the institution’s history, also joining the Yale faculty as a professor of applied physics and physics. As vice provost for research, he was deeply involved in leadership of the university’s strategic enhancement of its STEM enterprise, as well as numerous efforts to address emerging needs of the research enterprise. In 2019, he was named the Frederick W. Beinecke Professor of Applied Physics.
In 2020, Schiffer returned to a non-administrative faculty role, focusing on his continuing research on magnetic systems. At the same time, he was also named a senior fellow at the Association of American Universities (AAU), engaging in a range of topics relevant to the national research enterprise. He also served as the director for strategic projects in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Yale and as director of graduate studies in the Department of Applied Physics.
In August 2023, Schiffer moved to Princeton to become dean for research and professor of physics.
Schiffer has co-authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and supervised more than 20 doctoral students, as well as dozens of undergraduate researchers. He has served in various leadership roles in the American Physical Society, including the chair of both the Topical Group on Magnetism and its Applications and the Division of Materials Research, as well as on the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors. He is the recipient of a Career Award from the National Science Foundation, a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from the Army Research Office, and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship. He received the Faculty Scholar Medal in the Physical Sciences and the Joel and Ruth Spira Award for Teaching Excellence from Penn State. He is also a fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, NASA, DARPA, and the Army Research Office, among others.