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G. Fritz Benedict
AAS Secretary
McDonald Observatory

The AAS needs your help in getting due recognition for our most outstanding colleagues. Nominations and letters of support for the AAS prizes for 2014 must arrive in the Secretary's office by 30 June 2013 — that's this coming Sunday! Members may obtain the prize nomination instructions online at http://aas.org/grants-and-prizes/prize-nominations.

Submissions are welcome electronically (http://aas.org/about/grants-and-prizes/prize-nomination-form) or by mail (G. F. Benedict, McDonald Observatory, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712). Shortly after that date they are distributed to the several prize committees. Consequently late submissions cannot be accommodated.

In recent years the AAS prize committees have noted the small slates of worthy candidates from whom they may choose. This particularly applies to the junior prizes. To address this dwindling number of nominations your Council approved a change to the rules for the Warner and Pierce Prizes. For these prizes ONLY self-nominations are allowed, with a nomination package consisting of a CV, publication list, and three letters of support. The Warner and Pierce Prize committee will be blind regarding self-nominations versus outside nominations. Please note: letters of support for the Warner and Pierce Prizes MUST NOT include the language that the letter author is nominating the person.

Bear in mind that it is not only the monetary amount but also the honor and distinction that can mean so much to a young astronomer’s career. The award of a prize also adds luster to her/his department or institution in the eyes of the academic community.

Please address any questions regarding prizes to the AAS Secretary (aassec@aas.org).
Lisa Idem
Meetings Manager
American Astronomical Society

It's not too late to register for these hot summer topical conferences to be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa in Monterey, California, a comfortable mountain setting with ample opportunity for recreation outside of the set meeting times:

This meeting will bring together people who are working on probes of dark matter on galactic scales — on dynamical studies (utilizing new simulations as well as new observational data), gravitational lensing, kinematical studies of dwarf galaxies in the Local Group and beyond, and indirect probes of dark matter. See the science schedule online.

Giants of Eclipse
28 July - 2 August 2013
This meeting will provide a forum to discuss the physics of cool giant stars, examine new data, and compare the latest theories. Studies of giants in eclipsing binaries such as Epsilon Aurigae have advanced cool-star physics, and the role of these systems as astrophysical calibrators is central to the meeting. The full schedule and abstracts are available online.

Bruce Pham
NASA GSFC

A key product of the NASA Astrophysics Cosmic Origins (COR) program’s technology-management process is our Program Annual Technology Report (PATR). The PATR describes the program’s technology-management activities and technology-development progress over the past year. The PATR also defines the program's technology needs and their priorities for investment consideration during the upcoming year.

You are encouraged to read the 2012 COR PATR, to learn about our technology-development projects and their progress and our technology needs. In this report, the program technology needs that were submitted by the community are prioritized using criteria (described in the report) that reflect the goals of the COR program. As future calls for technology development for the program are drafted and investment decisions are made, the priorities established in the PATR are referenced. The prioritization process begins with your input regarding the technologies that you feel are needed to enable or enhance future COR missions. The Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group (COPAG) is the main conduit for collecting technology needs identified by anyone in the community. These inputs can also be provided directly to the program by downloading and submitting the “Technology Needs Form."

We look forward to receiving your technology needs input, which is due at the end of June each year. The annual prioritization process begins in July, and we will release the next PATR in October 2013. Your insights and suggestions are important to us! Whether you develop cutting-edge technology or use that technology to expand our understanding of the universe, we encourage you to read the PATR and tell us what you think. This is your opportunity to take an active role in shaping the future of COR science. Feel free to comment on the technology needs prioritization process, and please help us identify technology needs to prioritize. Your technology needs inputs are due by 30 June 2013. If you have any questions, please contact me at thai.pham@nasa.gov.

Yancy L. Shirley
Univ. of Arizona

The Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO) solicits proposals for the 10-meter Submillimeter Telescope (SMT) located on Mount Graham, Arizona, for the period 1 October 2013 to 31 January 2014.

The SMT currently supports a dual-polarization, 1-mm receiver (215-280 GHz) with ALMA Band 6 sideband-separating (SBS) mixers, a dual-polarization 0.8-mm (320-370 GHz) receiver, and a 0.4-mm (602-720 GHz) dual-polarization receiver with ALMA Band 9 mixers. A new 0.6-mm (420-500 GHz) dual-polarization receiver incorporating sideband-separating mixers will be available as well. The SMT control system supports both dual-polarization (“2 IF mode”) and dual-polarization, dual-sideband observations ("4 IF mode"), as well as OTF mapping. Remote observing is available. Observers who plan to observe remotely must supply fixed IP address(es) of the computer(s) that will be used during observing on the cover sheet of the proposal. Graduate-student participation is especially encouraged.

Proposers should consult the ARO website for technical specifications and to download updated proposal templates. Proposers are required to list on the cover sheet their requested observing blocks (LST ranges), dates on which they are not available to observe, and dates in which sources in those observing blocks are within the Sun-avoidance zone (44 degrees at the SMT).

The final proposal PDF file should be emailed to Marty Benson (benson@email.arizona.edu) by midnight PDT on 1 September 2013.

G. Fritz Benedict
AAS Secretary
McDonald Observatory

The AAS needs your help in getting due recognition for our most outstanding colleagues. Nominations and letters of support for the AAS prizes for 2014 must arrive in the Secretary's office by 30 June 2013 — that's this coming Sunday! Members may obtain the prize nomination instructions online at http://aas.org/grants-and-prizes/prize-nominations.

Submissions are welcome electronically (http://aas.org/about/grants-and-prizes/prize-nomination-form) or by mail (G. F. Benedict, McDonald Observatory, 1 University Station, Austin, TX 78712). Shortly after that date they are distributed to the several prize committees. Consequently late submissions cannot be accommodated.

In recent years the AAS prize committees have noted the small slates of worthy candidates from whom they may choose. This particularly applies to the junior prizes. To address this dwindling number of nominations your Council approved a change to the rules for the Warner and Pierce Prizes. For these prizes ONLY self-nominations are allowed, with a nomination package consisting of a CV, publication list, and three letters of support. The Warner and Pierce Prize committee will be blind regarding self-nominations versus outside nominations. Please note: letters of support for the Warner and Pierce Prizes MUST NOT include the language that the letter author is nominating the person.

Bear in mind that it is not only the monetary amount but also the honor and distinction that can mean so much to a young astronomer’s career. The award of a prize also adds luster to her/his department or institution in the eyes of the academic community.

Please address any questions regarding prizes to the AAS Secretary (aassec@aas.org).
Gary R. Davis
Joint Astronomy Centre

The James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) is one of the world's leading astronomical observatories. For more than 25 years it has served the UK and international communities with unique and forefront capabilities that have blazed the trail in submillimeter astronomy, consistently leading the world in productivity and impact. In addition, the JCMT pioneered many operational innovations, including flexible scheduling and the provision of data-reduction pipelines. Now equipped with the world’s fastest submillimeter mapping camera, SCUBA-2, it ideally complements the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), provides a rich addition to the legacy of Herschel, and is poised to deliver world-leading science for several years to come.

Despite these successes, the UK’s funding agency for astronomy, the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), can no longer support the JCMT beyond 30 September 2014. This decision follows a review process and reflects the evolution of the UK’s suite of observational capabilities in a tightly constrained financial environment. The observatory, its instrumentation, and its support equipment are therefore being offered to the global astronomical community through this Announcement of Opportunity.

We encourage anyone who is interested in participating in the JCMT beyond 1 October 2014 to review the prospectus and submit an Expression of Interest. There are no preconceptions or constraints: we welcome parties wishing to take over the operation of the entire observatory, parties interested in becoming minor partners, and any other permutation. We are willing to consider any and all possibilities. Details of the facilities being made available and the process for registering your interest are all described in the prospectus.

The JCMT is a highly productive, world-leading observatory with unique observational capabilities for submillimeter astronomy. It is being offered at a time when Herschel has successfully completed its mission and as ALMA ramps up toward full science operations. ALMA's high sensitivity within small fields is a perfect complement to the JCMT's wide-field instruments. We invite you to consider this unprecedented opportunity to gain access to forefront submillimeter capabilities at a time when this part of the spectrum is being opened up for exploitation and to participate in the new discoveries that will surely emerge.

The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is 15 September 2013. Given the challenging timeline, advance notice of intent to submit an EoI is strongly requested.

Laura Trouille
CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow & Astronomer
Northwestern University & The Adler Planetarium

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Stephanie Gogarten, an astronomer turned research scientist in statistical genetics. She works in the Biostatistics department in the same university where she got her degree, and is very satisfied with both her work-life balance and the family friendly environment. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit http://aas.org/jobs/career-profiles. We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

What field do you currently work in?
Biology, specifically statistical genetics.

What is the job title for your current position?
Research Scientist

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?
Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington.

What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?
Seattle, WA

What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?
Ph.D.

What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?
Postdoc (1st)

What has been your career path since you completed your degree?
After I completed my degree, for 9 months I had a part-time postdoc working for my thesis adviser, continuing work I had been doing in graduate school. (Part-time because I had just had a baby.) I left that postdoc to start at my current job, which was part-time (my choice) for the first 6 months and full-time after that. I am a research scientist in the Biostatistics Department in the same university where I got my degree. I am still in academia, but in a completely different field.

What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia?
During graduate school, I discovered two things about myself: 1) my favorite part of doing science was programming, and 2) most of the daily activities of a faculty member (writing grants, managing students and postdocs, serving on committees, teaching classes, coming up with a fountain of research ideas) were really not appealing to me. In addition, I was just starting a family, I loved the city I was living in, and I was ready to settle down. I did not want to move every few years, with very limited (and potentially undesirable) location choice, and be constantly worried about applying for my next job.

If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?
I was 28 when I switched from astronomy to genetics.

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?
Programming skills are essential, especially the ability to handle large data sets. It turns out that working with huge data sets of stars and huge data sets of genes require essentially the same skills. Some knowledge of statistics was helpful, as I now work in a biostatistics department. Being able to analyze a problem, follow up on results that seem suspicious, effectively communicate results to others, and work independently are all skills that science Ph.D. students acquire and can be translated to any discipline.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?
None before I started the job, but I made an effort to attend seminars and research relevant topics in biology so I could learn on the job.

Describe a typical day at work.
My group receives data sets from other investigators for quality control, so I usually have one of these projects that I am responsible for at any given time. I have weekly or biweekly conference calls with the investigators in which I present and discuss results. I am the primary person responsible for writing and maintaining the software we use for analysis, so I spent a lot of time writing code (which I love) and chasing down bugs. I have to attend more meetings than when I was a graduate student, but in general my time is flexible as long as I get the job done.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.

  • I asked people in my department for the names of graduates who had gone into alternative careers, and I contacted one former student who worked in biology in the same city. He met with me and gave me some advice about how he made the transition, along with some useful feedback on my resume.
  • I attended several presentations offered by my university's career center on how to make the transition from academia to industry, how to network, and how a resume is different from a CV.
  • I went to networking events hosted by various graduate student groups.
  • I went to the university's science/engineering career fair.
  • I met with a career counselor at the university (who was not very helpful as they mostly see college students, but friends reported that other counselors were better).
  • I talked to my friends about my job search, which turned out to be how I got my job. A friend in another department said that her thesis adviser was looking to hire someone with a programming background, and she sent them my resume.

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?
Faculty advisers should encourage their students to consider a wide variety of career options, and be honest about the pros and cons of academia. They should be wholeheartedly supportive of students who choose to pursue different paths, educate themselves on the career resources at their institutions so they can refer their students, and offer to put current students in touch with former students who might be able to give them advice.

How many hours do you work in a week?
I work 40 hours a week, sometimes less if I have to take a break for appointments, sometimes more if there is a deadline coming up. I have the option to work from home and frequently do so one day a week. I rarely work in the evenings or weekends, though I do try to check my email in case anything urgent comes up.

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?
Very satisfied.

I like that I am still in academia and can still call myself a scientist, without the stress of a postdoc or a tenure-track job. I get to spend a fair amount of time doing something I love (programming), and I enjoy learning about a new field of science.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?
The most enjoyable aspects of my job are writing code and thinking about new and creative ways to deal with data. The least enjoyable aspects are writing reports and having to repeat analyses multiple times because of tiny details.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?
I developed a software package that organized all the code we use in a typical analysis, and I expect to develop more packages in the future as our data evolves. I saw the need for a software pipeline to create reusable code and streamline the analysis process, so I took the initiative to create one and it has been very well received.

How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job?
Very satisfied.

Productivity is much more important than the number of hours spent working, so I try to work efficiently in order to maximize the time I spend with my family. I reserve evenings and weekends as family time except in unusual circumstances. I have a long commute, but I use the time to read, eat breakfast, and keep up with news and email. I also build exercise into my commute, which involves quite a bit of walking and taking the stairs up to my 15th-floor office.

How family-friendly is your current position?
Very family friendly.

I have a very flexible schedule, so I can work from home and take time off for family commitments as long as I get the job done (for example, I could take the morning off to bring my kid to the doctor and then work in the evening instead). I do have a limited number of vacation and sick days (3 weeks vacation and 12 sicks days per year), and paid parental leave has to come out of my accrued time off. Being able to work from home makes it easier to accumulate time off for when I really need it.

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?
Remember that if you are happy, well-rested, and able to spend plenty of time doing and thinking about things that are not work, you will be better able to focus and work efficiently when you are at work. I learned that if I try to work long hours when I am exhausted and stressed, I spend a lot of time staring at my computer without getting anything done. I can get the same amount of work done in a shorter amount of time if I am taking care of myself, and I am a lot happier.

Do you still interact with people who work (directly) in astronomy and/or are you still involved in astronomy in some way?
Yes.

I am still on the mailing list for a collaboration I was involved in as a grad student/postdoc, so I keep up to date on what the group is doing and occasionally answer questions. I have many friends who still work in astronomy. I am still on the distribution lists for several astronomy journals, so I periodically skim through the paper titles and look at papers that I find particularly interesting.

There is a worry among those considering careers outside of astronomy or academia that you can't "go back" and/or that you feel that you betrayed advisors, friends, colleagues. Have you felt this way?
No.

I was fortunate to have a supportive advisor and a department that placed high value on students' happiness and was not judgmental about alternative career choices. If your advisors or colleagues are acting betrayed, their priorities are misplaced and the problem is with them, not you.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?
I read a lot of novels while commuting; my favorite genre is science fiction. Most of my free time is spent with my wife and two young children.

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?

Yes, stephaniegogarten [at] gmail.com.

Laura Trouille
CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow & Astronomer
Northwestern University & The Adler Planetarium

The AAS Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy and the AAS Employment Committee have compiled dozens of interviews highlighting the diversity of career trajectories available to astronomers. The interviews share advice and lessons learned from individuals on those paths.

Below is our interview with Meredith Hughes, an astronomer turned professor. She is a first-year, tenure-track faculty at Wesleyan University, an undergraduate focused institution with a master's program in astronomy. If you have questions, suggestions, advice to share, etc. about this career path, please leave a comment below.

For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit http://aas.org/jobs/career-profiles. We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every first and third Thursday of the month.

What field do you currently work in?
Astronomy - Academia

What is the job title for your current position?
Assistant Professor of Astronomy

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?
Wesleyan University

What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?
Live/work in Middletown, CT, USA

What is the highest degree in astronomy/physics you have received?
Ph.D.

What is/was your ultimate/final academic position in astronomy/physics?
Tenure Track Faculty

What has been your career path since you completed your degree?

  • 2010 — PhD in astronomy at Harvard
  • 2010-2012 — Miller Fellow (postdoc) at UC Berkeley
  • 2013-present — Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Wesleyan

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?
Research, programming, data analysis, planning observations — typical graduate school stuff.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?
For my current job, it helps that I opted into pedagogy courses at the graduate level, had lots of outreach experience interacting with members of the public at all levels, and have tried to keep my skills sharp and information up to date through teaching workshops (e.g., CAE workshops offered at AAS).

Describe a typical day at work.
I teach 3 courses per year (usually one course one semester, two the other), and also maintain an active research program. On a typical day I might (1) prepare lecture notes, problem sets, tests, lab instructions, solutions, etc. (2) grade assignments, (3) meet with students about their research projects, (4) work on writing an observing proposal, grant proposal, and/or paper, (5) reduce data or write an observing script, (6) communicate with collaborators at other institutions about projects, etc.

My responsibilities are fairly typical for an academic position, with a few notable differences: I am at a primarily undergraduate institution, and the highest astronomy degree offered is a masters degree. Therefore I don't have PhD students, which means I stay more directly involved with the research and spend proportionally much more time training students in research skills. I also have a slightly (although not much) higher teaching load than most faculty at top research institutions. Wesleyan occupies a unique niche on the research-teaching spectrum, and is more research-oriented than many other primarily undergraduate institutions.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.
I learned about my current position through the AAS job register, and didn't need to take advantage of any particular job hunting resources. For many jobs at primarily undergraduate institutions, it is helpful to be able to demonstrate that you are a capable teacher (preferably that you've taught your own course in the past). If you're a postdoc or advanced grad student thinking about a job at a PUI, you may want to ask around for opportunities to teach a course (for example, summer courses pack the intensity of teaching into a short amount of time, and universities often open these positions to grad/postdoc instructors). That said, I actually didn't have any previous experience as the primary instructor of a course, but luckily they hired me anyway!

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?
I think that advisors should keep themselves up to date on the state of the academic job market and be very honest with their students about their job prospects if they continue in academia. I think that advisors should encourage students to learn non-traditional grad school skills like delving deeply into programming (in languages other than IDL) or teaching/pedagogy, and to take advantage of the resources offered by university career centers.

How many hours do you work in a week?
55-60 hours.

These questions are hard to answer, and it is worth pointing out that I am currently in my first semester as a faculty member and don't have kids, so it is possible that my habits will stabilize to something quite different with time. At the moment I am on campus ~8 am to 6 pm every weekday, generally with a 0.5- to 1-hour break for lunch. I often respond to emails, read proposals, or grade at home in the evenings (this varies a lot).

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?
Very satisfied.

Maybe I'm still in the honeymoon period, but at the moment I love my job. I am working harder than I was as a postdoc, but it doesn't feel as much like work because I'm enjoying it more. I love the increased cross section of interaction with students, and have been enjoying thinking about how to present material in lectures and how to get the students to engage with the material. I also appreciate that the teaching load is low enough that I can stay involved in research at a high level, and I love the variety of the work I do: last week I was putting together a new collaboration for an observing proposal while writing lectures and trying to figure out how to build a radio telescope for our campus. These things are all a huge amount of fun for me.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?
The students are wonderful. A lot of my motivation to work as hard as I do comes from wanting to do well by them: to share with them my enthusiasm for the subjects I teach and to give them a good foundation for their future lives/careers. I also, of course, love the freedom to work on any subject that I'm interested in, and the thrill of discovering new information about how the universe works. And I couldn't have gotten luckier with my colleagues. Academia is demanding, though, and it is very hard to balance teaching and advising with research and travel — sometimes it seems impossible to do everything you're expected to do. At a PUI, it also seems that you have to work a little harder to stay involved in mainstream research, and occasionally even to get people to take you seriously as a researcher.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?
Academia is inherently very creative and initiative-driven. I feel much more limited by my own finite available time and energy than by any constraints imposed by my job.

How family-friendly is your current position?
Moderately family friendly.

My department is very family-friendly — several of my colleagues are participatory parents/caregivers and regularly talk about their responsibilities and ask for accommodations (like not scheduling meetings after 5 pm), so it's an open topic of conversation. The university policies are pretty good. There are universities with more generous/equitable policies, but it's also much better than FMLA. In general, academia allows you to have a great deal of control over your schedule, although the travel required for professional astronomers is a big issue. (I highly recommend radio astronomy, which seems to be better than some other fields at incorporating remote observing.)

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?
I have two main work-life balance strategies.

(1) I work well on a regular schedule, and so I do my best to work efficiently during my regular working hours and compartmentalize work and home life as much as possible. For the most part, I try to work when I'm at work and immerse myself in home life when I'm home. It doesn't always work perfectly, of course, but so far it has worked well enough for me.

(2) At each stage of my career, I've tried very hard to strike a work-life balance that I'm comfortable with and stick to it, despite the pressures that an astronomy career places to always work longer and harder. If I can't get to the next level with a work-life balance that's comfortable for me, then I probably don't want to be there. That's been my attitude in grad school and as a postdoc, and it's how I'm now thinking about the tenure process. So far it's worked out fine... ask me again in about seven years!

I also don't have children yet (although I do have a family — and I do occasionally take issue with equating "having a family" to "having children"), so I suspect I may have to readjust my approach to work-life balance in the future, and will be happy to read other people's advice about this topic.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?
I try to stay physically active (I've done a couple of sprint triathlons and some martial arts training), and my fiance and I are adventurous cooks (and good ones, we think!). I've also been involved in community choruses since graduating from college, and I read a lot.

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?
Yes, amhughes@wesleyan.edu.