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Nominated Office: President

Affiliation: Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Texas A&M

Position/title: Professor

PhD institution: PhD Astronomy, Board of Studies in Astronomy and Astrophysics, UC Santa Cruz (1980)

Areas of scientific interest:

  • Supernovae
  • Cosmology
  • Stellar populations and abundances
  • Fundamental calibration
  • Instrumentation
  • Public policy

AAS positions & dates: 

  • AAS Councilor (2007-10)
  • Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (2008-10)
  • AAS Vice President (2010-13)

Other relevant positions & experience:

National experience:

  • Carnegie/Las Campanas Fellow (1982-86)
  • Gemini Science Operations Working Group (1997)
  • NOAO TAC (1999-2003)
  • NOAO Director Search Committee (2000)
  • Dark Energy Task Force (2005-06)
  • Associate Director for Science, NOAO (2003-06)
  • Head & Professor, Astronomy Program, Texas A&M (2006+)
  • DOE review of LBNL Physics Division (2006-07)
  • DOE review of Stanford KIPAC (2007) DOE review of DEC at Fermilab (2007-08)
  • NASA NAC Astrophysics Panel (2008-10)
  • HST panels (1994,6,7,2005) and TAC (2008, 2016)
  • GSMT-SWG (2007-10)
  • GMT Board of Directors (2007-12)
  • Science Board for Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (2009+)
  • AURA Member Board Representative (2015+)
  • Science Board Member, AdventGX Corporation (2008+)

Washington DC experience:

  • US State Department, Jefferson Science Fellow (2010-2015)
  • Humanitarian Affairs Officer, Office of Human Rights, US State Department (2010-11)
  • US Delegate to UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (2010-11)
  • White House Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction (2010-11)
  • Humanitarian Affairs Consultant, US State Department (2011-15)

International experience:

  • Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory Users’ Committee (1984-86)
  • NOAO/CTIO Staff Astronomer, La Serena, Chile (1986-2006)
  • CTIO TAC (1990-08)
  • Chilean Astronomy TAC (2000)
  • Chilean Gemini TAC (2004-08)
  • University Vancouver Physics Department Review (2008)

Candidate Statement: For 41 years as an AAS member, I have been fortunate to work in a science that inspires wonder among its participants and the public alike.

The success of our meetings, the education office, the six divisions, the journals, and public outreach all attest to the strength of the Society leadership over the decades. Our community, however, also faces the same societal problems as our country — issues such as harassment and implicit bias, uncertainty of future employment, LGBT+ and gender issues, and unequal access to education, to name just a few.

While maintaining the traditions of the Society, I wish to develop new ideas that address these issues. For example, we need to introduce job opportunities into geographically underrepresented places by sponsoring regional AAS meetings for undergraduates. This strategy would not only expose smaller colleges to the excitement of astronomy but stimulate the training of future high school instructors who can then teach astronomy as a core science. Another example: Now that graduate students have the right to collectively organize, they and postdocs deserve a voice through a permanent AAS commission.

Then there is funding. I would bring an experience based on working with funding agencies, politicians, and civil societies in Austin, the State Department, Chile, and the United Nations. To make progress you must listen and work with people often of very different political views while maintaining focus on core issues.

The next decade will be thrilling: exoplanets, JWST, LSST, astrostatistics, gravitational waves, and, as always in astronomy, discoveries undreamed of. Our work will continue to evoke wonder both within the community and without. I am honored to be considered for this office, and I would ardently welcome the opportunity to help lead AAS into a future where a commitment to social responsibility will be as inspiring as the science.