Astronomy and Astrophysics Professor Erik Shirokoff Dies After Fall

Shirokoff, who died Thursday, was known for his research on instruments that study high-redshift galaxies.

By Austin Zeglis

Erik Shirokoff, associate professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and senior member of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (KICP), passed away on Thursday, January 26, according to multiple emails from department faculty.

A Facebook post from a family friend of Shirokoff confirmed that he sustained fatal injuries after falling down the stairs in the lobby of his apartment building Sunday evening, January 22.

Shirokoff’s death was first announced to his colleagues in an email sent on Thursday evening by Astronomy and Astrophysics Chair Joshua Frieman and KICP Director Abigail Vieregg. A subsequent email on Thursday from Physical Sciences Division (PSD) Dean Angela Olinto announced Shirokoff’s passing to all PSD faculty, staff, and graduate students.

“Erik was passionate in pursuing his vision for the future of cosmology and astrophysics, advancing the field using his unique creativity and technical expertise to develop new instruments and detectors,” Frieman and Vieregg wrote.

Shirokoff studied at UC Berkeley, where he received a B.A. in physics and astrophysics in 2002 and a Ph.D. in physics in 2011. After receiving his Ph.D., he became a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology and eventually joined the University of Chicago Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics as an associate professor in 2014.

At UChicago, Shirokoff conducted research on instruments that study the cosmic microwave background and high redshift galaxies. At the time of his death, he was involved in multiple projects developing spectrometer technology. Shirokoff is also credited on more than 200 published journal articles.

“Erik’s colleagues will remember him for his creativity and technical expertise as well as his passion for the field,” Olinto wrote. “Erik touched many lives within the PSD and the broader Astro community, and he will be greatly missed.”

Editor’s note: We hope to follow up on this article with an obituary memorializing professor Erik Shirokoff’s life and his time as a member of the University community. We ask anyone who has memories they want to share to contact us at