Candidate Statement: Kelsey Johnson

Kelsey Johnson

Nominated Office
: President

Affiliation: University of Virginia

Position/Title: Professor/Director

PhD Institution: University of Colorado (2001)

Areas of scientific interest:

  • Star formation
  • Galaxy evolution
  • Galaxy mergers
  • Dwarf galaxies
  • Star clusters
  • Science policy and science education

AAS positions & dates:

  • Member, AAS Strategic Plan Policy, Outreach, and News Release Subcommittee (2020 – present)
  • Member, AAS Strategic Assembly (2017 – present)
  • At-Large Trustee, AAS Board of Trustees (2017 – present, extended term)
  • Chair, AAS Code of Ethics Task Force (2018 – present)
  • Judge, Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Awards (2018, 2019, 2020)
  • Member, Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize Committee (2007 – 2009; 2017 – 2018)

Other relevant positions and experience:

  • President, Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2019 – 2021)
  • Vice President, Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2018 – 2019)
  • Treasurer, Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2016 – 2017)
  • Board Member, Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2014 – 2020)
  • Member (appointed by White House OSTP), Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (2016 – 2019)
  • Member, James Webb Space Telescope Advisory/User’s Committee (2016 – present)
  • Member, Next Generation VLA Advisory Committee (2016 – 2017)
  • Member/Vice-Chair/Chair, ALMA International Science Advisory Committee (2008 – 2015)
  • Member, National Academy Committee on Radio Frequencies, CORF (2019 – present)
  • Founding Director, Dark Skies Bright Kids (2009 – present)
  • Member, National Science Foundation Committee of Visitors (2005)

Candidate Statement:

The AAS serves members who come to the society for many reasons, yet we are united by a shared belief in the importance of scientific progress and understanding; every member has something important to contribute. I am honored to be nominated to stand for election to serve as President of the AAS and give back to the Society, which has been a fundamental part of my life since I was an undergraduate student.

The AAS has evolved since I joined the society in the 1990’s. Our devotion to the field we love requires that we constantly assess whether it is reaching its full potential. One critical sign of health is the demographics of our members; it is essential that the AAS be broadly inclusive and welcoming in our mission “to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe.” It is clear that we need to do better. As President, I would work hard to connect with and listen to members (and proto-members) from across the spectrum, center their voices, and support their careers. My time as the chair of the AAS Ethics Task Force helped to educate me on the range of issues that our members encounter, and I strive to transform those conversations into substantial change within the community.

This past year has also underscored the critical importance of science literacy and advocacy among both policy makers and the general public. I believe the importance of astronomy as a "gateway" science has never been greater, and as professional astronomers we have an essential role in combating science illiteracy as well as advancing the forefront of knowledge. If elected, I would work closely with the public policy team and outreach groups to enhance our efforts to support science literacy from Capitol Hill to local elementary schools. My previous service on the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee (AAAC, mandated by congress to advise the NSF, NASA, and DOE), the AAS Board, as president of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and director of the Dark Skies Bright Kids program will give me insight and guidance in these spheres. Funding in the coming years may be turbulent as we climb out of the pandemic, which will impact early-career astronomers most severely. We must be proactive in identifying ways to support our most at-risk members, both because it is the right thing to do, and for the long-term health of the AAS. This means not only advocating for strategic allocation of funds, but also enhancing support and education for a range of important and fulfilling career paths. Our meetings, job register, and journals, have a fundamental influence on careers related to astronomy, and we need to steward this responsibility with care.

There is no doubt that the coming years will be challenging. Our shared belief in the power of science gives us a solid foundation to continue to make progress on issues important to all of us. Thank you for being a member of the AAS and for considering my nomination.