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The Passing of Dr. Peter Fox

From the President's Desk

To: The Rensselaer Community
Re: The Passing of Dr. Peter Fox

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Dr. Peter Fox, Tetherless World Constellation Chair, Director of the Information Technology and Web Science program, and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, and Cognitive Science, on March 27. He was 61.

Dr. Fox joined Rensselaer in 2008 to complete the Tetherless World Constellation. He was known for defining informatics and data science in the earth sciences. His research explored the application of applied mathematics, theoretical physics, and computer science to a variety of problems in solar and solar-terrestrial physics.

In 2012, Dr. Fox was named Director of the interdisciplinary Information Technology and Web Science program. Under his direction, the program was ranked number one in the nation among undergraduate programs by College Choice, a leading authority in college and university rankings and resources.

Dr. Fox fundamentally changed the way scientists approach the data they collect. During three decades of research, he developed proven methodologies for rapidly and efficiently extracting meaning from datasets without exhaustive discipline-specific knowledge. His work has aided researchers at organizations including the Deep Carbon Observatory, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program in the most effective use of data to advance knowledge within their fields.

Dr. Fox earned a bachelor of science degree (Honors I) in mathematics and a doctorate in mathematics, both from Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Prior to joining Rensselaer, Dr. Fox was the Chief Computational Scientist at the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and before that, a research scientist at Yale University. 

Dr. Fox was well-respected in his field and earned many prestigious professional distinctions. He was President of the Federation of Earth Science Information Partners from 2104 to 2016; Chair of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics Union Commission on Data and Information from 2007 to 2015; past Chair of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Special Focus Group on Earth and Space Science Informatics; and Editor-in-Chief of the AGU journal Earth and Space Science. Dr. Fox served on the International Council for Science’s Strategic Coordinating Committee for Information and Data. 

In 2012, he was awarded the Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award for service to the Earth Science Information community, and the European Geosciences Union Ian McHarg Medal for significant contributions to Earth and Space Science Informatics. In 2015, he was elected as the first Earth and Space Science Informatics fellow to the AGU. In 2018, Dr. Fox was elected as Fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in recognition of his “distinguished, innovative, and sustained fundamental contributions in Earth and space science informatics and data science research, education, and service.”

Dr. Fox is survived by his partner, Erica Veil; his mother; his brother, Paul; his son, Evan; his daughter, Megan; and his granddaughter. He will be greatly missed by numerous colleagues, students, former students, and friends.  

Our deepest thoughts are with the family and friends of Dr. Peter Fox, and we honor the contributions he made to both the Rensselaer community and to the world. 

Counseling and grief services are available for students through the Rensselaer Counseling Center. An appointment can be made by calling (518) 276-6479. Faculty and staff seeking counseling and grief support may contact the Employee Assistance Program by calling (800) 327-2251.