Dr. Phillips received a B.S. degree in mathematics from the U.S. Naval Academy, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in space physics from UCLA. He served in the U.S. Navy as a pilot from 1972 to 1982 and then continued in the Navy Reserve for another 20 years. After completing graduate school in 1987, he worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a J. Robert Oppenheimer Fellow and then as a staff scientist for a total of nine years. He was principal investigator for the plasma experiment on the Ulysses spacecraft as it flew over the poles of the Sun. He has authored over 150 scientific publications.
In 1996 Dr. Phillips was selected by NASA as an astronaut. He has flown into space three times: in 2001 aboard STS-100, space shuttle Endeavour; in 2005 on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for a six-month stay on the International Space Station; in 2009 on STS-119, space shuttle Discovery. He was assigned in 2009 as the NASA Chair Professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, teaching classes on the space environment. Dr. Phillips retired from NASA in 2011 and now lives in Idaho.