Candidate Statement: Paula Szkody

Nominated Office: President

Affiliation: University of Washington

Position/title: Professor

PhD institution: University of Washington (1975)

Areas of scientific interest:

  • Cataclysmic Variables
  • Pulsating White Dwarfs
  • Binary Evolution
  • Sky Surveys
  • Observational Techniques
  • Astronomical Publishing

AAS positions & dates:

  • AAS Publications Committee (2016 – 2021)
  • AAS e-books Board (2015 – 2019)
  • AAS Journals Taskforce (2014)
  • AAS Vice President (2012 – 2015)
  • ApJ Scientific Editor (2002 – 2005)
  • Van Biesbroeck Prize Committee (2001 – 2003, Chair, 2003)
  • AAS Councilor (1996 – 1999)
  • HEAD Executive Committee (1996 – 1997)
  • AJ Cannon Advisory Committee (1986 – 1991, Chair 1988 – 1990)

Other relevant positions and experience:

  • NASA Senior Review (2016, 1996)
  • Astronomy Astrophysics Advisory Committee (2012 – 2015)
  • PASP Editor-in-Chief (2006 – 2012)
  • AAVSO President (2007 – 2009, VP 2006 – 2007, Council 2004 – 2010)
  • AURA Observatories Council (2004 – 2010, Chair 2007 – 2010)
  • AURA Solar Observatories Council (2001 – 2004)
  • IAU Commission 42 President (2000 – 2003, VP 1997 – 2000, OC, 1991 – 2006)
  • ASP Board of Directors (1988 – 1992, Pub Board 2001 – 2003)
  • AAAS Nominating Committee (1990 – 1993, Chair 1993, Member-at-Large 1995 – 1999)

Candidate Statement:

I am grateful to be nominated to run for President of the AAS, an organization in which I have been a member since graduate school. While the society has remained true to its mission to share scientific understanding of the universe throughout those years, the methods employed to accomplish this mission have progressed with the times. The most prominent activities of the AAS include being at the forefront of astronomical publishing, and arranging meetings that present the latest research and engage all constituents from students to retired astronomers.

Having been a Scientific editor for ApJ, Editor-in-Chief of PASP, serving on the AAS Journals Taskforce, and currently on the AAS Publications Committee and the AAS e-books board, I have witnessed the complexities of publication from many angles, and participated in the efficient reorganization of our society journals so that there is a common input and coordinated review process. The entire field of publication is rapidly changing; it is vital for the AAS to foresee changes and continue its past and current role as an innovator in astronomical publishing. The recent additions of e-books, NOVA, and Research Notes bode well for the willingness of AAS to try new things.

Having served as AAS Vice-President, arranging speakers, town halls, workshops, for three years of meetings has given me perspective on what makes a good meeting. As the meetings grow ever larger, the debate continues to rage as to whether short talks are worthwhile and how all the posters can be viewed, but the fact remains that the AAS is likely the only large organization that allows all members to give a talk if they so desire. The advent of iPosters allows interactive input and alternate viewing. The undergrad reception has grown tremendously in the past years, as has the number of students presenting their research. The large attendance permits job-seekers to meet up with employers, and old-timers to catch up with past students, postdocs, and colleagues. The ability to accommodate growth and fulfill the needs of all members will continue to be a challenge.

Having been employed at a community college, a private university, and three large public universities (as lecturer, research associate, research professor, full professor), I am familiar with struggles to obtain jobs and grant funding in a highly competitive world, as well as the changes in the education environment as technology advances. The AAS can help prepare upcoming students for success in the jobs they choose.

The future of our society and that of the entire scientific community hinges on our ability to be prepared for what the future brings. To me, this means being able to adapt to the changing publication arena, preparing our grad students and postdocs to enter a changing job market, and providing the information and collective advocacy of the science of the universe that a large body like the AAS can do. I hope to be able to use my past experience to enable this to happen.