Nominated Office: Vice-President
Affiliation: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Position/title: Principal Scientist
PhD institution: Cambridge University (1980)
Areas of scientific interest:
- Space-based instrumentation and mission development for astronomy
- Extrasolar planets, stellar debris disks, biogenic ices
- Emission processes in active galactic nuclei
- Science policy
AAS positions & dates:
- AAS Membership Committee (2018 – 2019)
- AAS Agent (2016 – present)
- AAS Council (2014 – 2017)
- AAS Task Force on Meetings (Chair 2015 – 2016)
- AAS representative on US National Committee of the IAU (2016 – 2019)
- Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) (2015 – 2017)
- Division on Dynamical Astronomy (DDA) Committee (2000 – 2002 and 2006 – 2007, and Chair 2006 – 2007)
- DDA Brouwer Award Selection Committee (Chair 2010)
- Division member of DDA and DPS
Other relevant positions and experience:
- NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program, Deputy Program Scientist (2005 – 2015)
- JPL Center for Exoplanet Science, Deputy Director (2005 – 2011)
- NASA proposal review panels (1994, 1998 – 1999, 2011 – 2017)
- NASA Keck Time Allocation Committee (2013)
- NSF Management Review Committee of Arecibo Observatory (2007)
- NSF proposal reviewer (2000 – 2005)
- NASA Space Interferometry Mission, Deputy Project Scientist (2000 – 2010)
- Arecibo Users Committee (2000 – 2003, Chair 2003)
- NRAO Users Committee (1992 – 1995, Chair 1995)
I want to be Vice-President of the AAS because I believe strongly that the astronomy community needs an organization that represents — and will act on — the collective concerns and issues of its membership. Astronomers should be able to look to the AAS as the public face of our profession. It can and should take a visible stand on issues that affect astronomy — including diversity, inclusion, and the ability to pursue research. For instance, the AAS should advocate for agencies such as NASA and NSF to give more priority to research support. And it can do more to foster opportunities for rewarding astronomy careers, especially in non-academic organizations — my own astronomy career path in an engineering environment has been non-traditional. More broadly, the AAS should be seen as a resource for young scientists wanting a career in astronomy, and providing support for scientists using astronomy to promote scientific literacy in the US.
Serving on the Council a few years ago convinced me of many ways the AAS provides value to its members and the astronomy community. I chaired a Meetings Task Force that polled members for input and made many recommendations, including enhancing networking, controlling the cost of attending Meetings, and selecting appropriate meeting locations. And I worked with the Committee for Sexual-Orientation & Gender Minorities in Astronomy on setting policy for meeting locations that will not discriminate. That's an example of why AAS Committees are important — they allow us to fully explore complicated issues, and to ensure the Society's policies and actions reflect the membership.
Open two-way communication with membership is key to keeping the AAS relevant in the age of social media and instant reactions to events. This includes setting policies that guide the AAS in responding to issues that our members face. The Society's recent governance changes will help, by allowing issues to be resolved more quickly.
A specific task of Vice Presidents is to plan the Society's Meetings and select prize lectures. Making a meeting schedule that includes all the events that members need and want (including topical sessions and career events) is the challenge — invited speakers should reflect diversity in our profession, and talks should be productive, informative, and fun!