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David J. Helfand
Columbia University

Emerging on the autumnal side of the equinox should signal only one thing to AAS members: it is time to renew your membership! This year brings a number of new benefits that makes the case for renewal compelling.

First, you can renew for two years (unless you’re a junior member), locking in the 2014 membership rate through 2015 and leaving you with one less thing to do next fall, which you just know is going to be even busier than this fall. Second, your renewal will yield a coupon for 15% off your share of author charges for a paper you publish in one of the world's highest-impact astronomy journals, ApJ or AJ. And if you renew for two years, you get two coupons, one for a paper in 2014 and one for 2015. If you are as prolix as I am, your renewal could well yield a net return to your grant or pocket. And, of course, your membership provides discounted registration fees for our meetings in Washington and Boston this coming year. Ask any economist you know: rational-choice theory simply requires that you renew now.

Later this month, we'll be launching the AAS Agents program, which will provide additional savings to the person from each department, observatory, or institute who wishes to devote a few hours a year acting as the ears and mouth of the AAS at his/her institution. Thirty agents have already signed on; Michael Strauss of Princeton got to be Agent 007, so that's taken, but other good numbers remain. Agents get a half-price meeting registration and, more importantly for those of you in PhD-granting departments, their grad students receive four years’ membership for the price of one when the department matches the AAS discounted rate — one department has already signed up 15 new members. I'd like to thank all of you who have signed on as agents to date, and I look forward to registering volunteers at the other institutions this month (interested persons may sign up using our online form).

Lest you think all these discounts indicate an age of profligacy at the AAS, rest assured we have not succumbed to the deficit addiction prevalent in the rest of Washington. Indeed, we are on track to close the calendar year with a balanced budget for the fifth year in a row. Our journals continue to prosper, and our public-policy activities continue to operate as effectively as they can while dealing with the sad excuse for a government under which we currently function. As I write this on the eve of a government shutdown, just about everything is uncertain, so I will refrain from any further comment until my next column when, I am sure (said Pollyanna), all will be sorted out.

Whatever the outcome of the budget and debt-ceiling negotiations, however, we can be quite certain that we will be operating under continuing budget stringencies for some time to come. In a recent telecon with the AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, Jim Ulvestad, Director of Astronomical Sciences at NSF, made an important, and perhaps under-appreciated, point about the outcome of the peer-review process when the acceptance rate falls toward (or below) 10%. At this level, each panel typically gets to award funds to only one, or at most two, proposals. This is inherently unhealthy, not simply because so many worthy proposals are unfunded, but because it is not at all clear that the best proposals are funded.

Peer review is our gold standard for distributing limited resources, but it is not infinitely robust. When stressed to the point that reviewers are forced to pick one of a half dozen fully worthy proposals that will conduct ground-breaking research, not only do panels tend toward conservative choices that will yield "certain" results, but also they are forced to turn to scientifically irrelevant distinctions to make impossible choices — e.g., making five typos vs. one typo in a 15-page proposal the basis for a selection clearly isn't guaranteeing the best science gets done.

Other divisions at NSF, already at the 10% mark or below, are attempting to address this problem by adopting restrictions on budget items (e.g., a limit of one month of summer salary for faculty proposers) and proposal process changes (e.g., the Biological Sciences "sandbox," which attempts to assure funding for some risky proposals, and a pre-proposal process). The CAPP is starting a forum for ideas on what policy changes might be adopted to deal with our vanishing selection rate, and I would appreciate any ideas members of the Society might offer. Meanwhile, of course, we will continue to make the case that ceding US leadership in this fundamental area of science is not in the national interest, but realism suggests we had best have some coping mechanisms in place if new resources are not forthcoming.

The good news, of course, is that our scientific understanding of the universe continues to advance, and the public remains fascinated with our work. I gave a public talk in New York this past weekend, and more than 800 people showed up to hear "What We Know (and Don't Know) about the Universe" rather than take a walk in the park on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon. We must all work in our schools and university classrooms and in public fora of all descriptions to continue sharing what we do — it may not be a sufficient condition to assure a rosy future, but it is certainly a necessary one.

With best wishes for an autumn marked only by falling leaves and not by falling budgets, and in anticipation of seeing many of you in Washington in a few months,


Faye Peterson
Former Membership Services Manager
American Astronomical Society

The American Astronomical Society is pleased to announce two special offers for members who renew by 31 December 2013.

First, you can renew for two years at the 2014 rate, locking in the 2014 rate for 2015 too. This applies not only to your basic AAS membership but also to your division memberships and your electronic (only) journal subscriptions. (Note: This offer is not available to junior members; instead, junior members get a two-years-for-the-price-of-one special rate when first joining the Society.)

Second, you'll receive a 15% discount off your portion of the author charges for one paper in the Astrophysical Journal, ApJ Letters, ApJ Supplement, or the Astronomical Journal for 2014. (Note: This offer is available to all members, including junior members.)

Best of all, if you're eligible for both benefits, you can combine them: If you pay your 2015 dues by 31 December 2013, you'll receive the 15% author-charge discount in 2015 as well!

Annual membership renewals are now under way. Reminders to renew are going out to all current members, who are encouraged to renew online at Do it now, and save money on your membership and author charges!

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The American Astronomical Society’s annual report for calendar year 2012 is now available for downloading as a 1.3-megabyte PDF file. To read and/or print it, you'll need a PDF reader, such as the free Adobe Reader, which is available for all common computer platforms.

Beginning with the 2009 edition, the AAS annual report is published separately from the Bulletin of the AAS, as directed by the Publications Board, and focuses on summarizing the activities of the Society instead of presenting a comprehensive reporting of them all. We hope this will make the report more readable and more widely read.

2012 annual report contents:

  • President’s Message
  • Executive Officer’s Message
  • Financial Report
  • Membership
  • Charitable Donors
  • Publishing
  • Public Policy
  • AAS/Division Meetings
  • Divisions, Committees & Working Groups
  • Education & Outreach
  • Press & Media
  • Prize Winners
  • Member Deaths

The annual report for a given year is not available until the second half of the following year, because we need Council approval of the audit report before we can publish our financial data, and each year's audit report isn't available for the Council's consideration until the next summer meeting.

If you have questions or comments about the AAS annual report, please direct them to the Executive Office.

Joshua H. Shiode
John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

The federal government remains shut down as the two chambers of Congress failed to reach an agreement on funding the government as we move into fiscal year 2014. Now on the ninth day of the shutdown, we are continuing to sort out its effects on our astronomical sciences. And we are asking you for your stories, which we will collect for a letter to Congressional leaders.

We cannot claim to know all the impacts yet, but here's a snapshot of what we do know so far:

  • NASA has sent 98% of its employees, more than 17,700 people, home without pay or access to their work.
  • The NSF has furloughed 2,000 of its employees, which is 99% of its workforce, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science has drawn its federal staff down to single digits at nearly all sites. CORRECTION (7 Oct., 12:50 pm EDT): The Department of Energy's Office of Science continues to operate at near normal levels until available balances are exhausted.
  • Contractor-operated NASA, NSF, and DOE facilities (including JPL, APL, STScI, and the national observatories and labs), on the other hand, are continuing near regular operations in the near term. This includes paying salaries to scientists and support staff and continuing ongoing mission operations for Curiosity on Mars and the Hubble Space Telescope, for example. However, these facilities may have to draw down staff and operations if this budget battle draws on for multiple weeks.
  • All public-facing elements of NASA have gone dark or will not be maintained.
  • Preparations for the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which has a 20-day launch window in mid-November and then not again for 26 months, have ceased during the work stoppage at Kennedy Space Center. UPDATE (3 Oct., 8:00 pm EDT): Happily, NASA has determined that ensuring MAVEN's successful, on-time launch is crucial to ongoing operations on Mars, including the Curiosity rover, and will be excepted from the shutdown.
  • The scientific heart of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM), will stay cooled to testing conditions, but tests are postponed during the shutdown. In the event of a protracted shutdown (longer than about 2 weeks), ISIM may have to be warmed up, which could result in a two-month delay for this critical project milestone.
  • "Payments will not be made" by NSF during the shutdown. Work can continue with already disbursed funds, but no extensions, exceptions, or new disbursements (e.g., grant renewals) will be processed until the government reopens. You should contact your local administration if you are unsure whether your grant funds will be accessible during the shutdown.
  • NSF's grant review system will grind to a halt. The Fastlane system for processing grant applications will be down, preventing new grant submissions. Deadlines that occur during the shutdown will be postponed to dates that will be determined once NSF is allowed to open back up. All grant review panels will be postponed.
  • Both the National Radio and Optical Astronomy Observatories (NRAO and NOAO), operated by independent organizations on behalf of NSF, will continue near-normal operations through next week. However, reports from NRAO indicate that a shutdown longer than 10 days will result in furloughs for nearly all staff. Similar conditions likely apply for NOAO in the event of a prolonged shutdown. UPDATE (4 Oct., 12:15 pm EDT): Multiple sources have now confirmed that NRAO is suspending all observations on VLA, VLBA and GBT and furloughing most of its employees at 5:00 pm today. UPDATE (9 Oct., 12:00 pm EDT): In an email, the NOAO director announced that "furloughs […] and reduced scientific operations on Kitt Peak" would set in after Friday 18 October if the shutdown continues past that date. Meanwhile, they believe that operations in Chile can continue for "several weeks into November." The email directs users to send questions on Kitt Peak to Dr. Lori Allen and on operations in Chile to Dr. Nicole van der Bliek.
  • Federal employees (other than those excepted from furloughs) are forbidden from traveling during the shutdown, meaning NASA researchers would not be able to attend next week's AAS Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver if the shutdown continues.
  • The Smithsonian has furloughed about 84% of its employees during the shutdown. While the majority of the coverage focuses on the shutdown's effect on museums and the National Zoo, this also affects researchers at Smithsonian Research Centers. John Johnson at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has a blog post on the effect on the CfA in particular.

Most recently in the shutdown saga, the House has been pushing piecemeal spending bills that narrowly address particular functions of the federal government deemed most important. As of October 3rd, only one of these narrow resolutions has been signed into law, a resolution that maintains most military pay. Three others passed in the House during yesterday's activities. Though the agencies that support the astronomical sciences might not fall to the bottom of such a list of government priorities, they are also unlikely to be found near the top. Senate Democrats and the President have flatly rejected this piecemeal approach to re-opening the government (with the exception of military pay).

As I said at the outset, these are not all the impacts. We will continue to gather more information and update you as it comes in, but we'd also like to hear from you as we prepare to send a message to Congress that this unnecessary government shutdown is hurting their constituent scientists and hampering scientific progress. Please submit your story.

Please also send any corrections or additional impacts to us at

Gina Brissenden
Education & Outreach Coordinator
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize provides graduate students or postdocs within one year (either side) of receipt of their PhD a monetary prize to enable the oral presentation of their dissertation research at a winter meeting of the AAS. With the regular abstract deadline for the January 2014 AAS meeting in Washington, DC, now behind us, it’s time to choose this year’s Doxsey Prize winners. If you’re a full member of the AAS and are willing to review and rank the ~100 dissertation abstracts (I know the number seems big, but abstracts are short!) entered into this year’s competition, please send me an email by Friday, 11 October. Judging will take place during the latter half of October.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

If you ask most people what big event occurs in Washington, DC, every four years, they’ll probably say the presidential inaugural. For astronomers, though, the answer is the return of the AAS winter meeting — the “Super Bowl of Astronomy” — to the nation’s capital. Every quadrennial DC meeting seems to set an attendance record, and during the last one in 2010 it became clear that we’d outgrown the Marriott Wardman Park north of Dupont Circle. The 223rd AAS meeting, 5-9 January 2014, will be held in a new venue: the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Set on 350 premium acres along the Potomac River with lovely views of downtown DC and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, the Gaylord is accompanied by more than 70 shops and restaurants (with more on the way) and is just a 15-minute taxi ride from the capital. Of special note, rooms in the AAS block at the main hotel, operated by Marriott, are being offered to all attendees at the prevailing government rate.

This will be a joint meeting of the AAS and its High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) and Historical Astronomy Division (HAD). Not surprisingly, the program is absolutely jam-packed. By now all AAS members surely know that education and career workshops are offered on the weekend preceding the official start of the conference, but even regular attendees will be surprised at the unprecedented number and variety being offered in DC in January. Among them are the second annual AAS Astronomy Ambassadors Workshop for early-career members seeking resources and techniques for effective outreach to K-12 students, families, and the public and the Center for Astronomy Education’s increasingly popular Tier I Teaching Excellence Workshop for current and future astronomy and space-science instructors eager to ensure their effectiveness in the classroom.

New this year, thanks to a partnership with the National Geographic Society, is our first AAS/NGS Science Communication Workshop focusing on practical techniques for sharing the excitement, wonder, and value of astronomy with nonscientists. Other weekend workshops include Introduction to Python; Leadership and Teambuilding for Astronomers; Managing, Sharing, and Archiving Your Data; Re-Numerate: Restoring Essential Numerical Skills; and Dark Skies & Energy Kits for Classrooms & Outreach.

The HAD meeting kicks off on Sunday afternoon with two sessions: Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing in the Universe? and From Barnard’s Star to the Kepler Mission: Searching for Low Mass Companions to Stars. These will be followed by the undergraduate orientation, which attracts an impressive horde of college students interested in learning about their options for summer internships and graduate school in astronomy, and the opening reception, where you can reunite with friends and colleagues, share a laugh over a beer, and eat your fill from our lavish buffet.

Science sessions get under way on Monday morning with the Kavli Lecture by Robert Williams (STScI) on the legacy of the Hubble Deep Field. That’s just the first of a stellar lineup of at least 18 plenary talks by AAS prize winners and other distinguished astronomers, including Armin Rest (STScI) on what we can learn from supernova light echoes, Rosemary Wyse (Johns Hopkins) on spiral-galaxy disks, Tim de Zeeuw (ESO) on the future of the European Southern Observatory — which just celebrated its 50th anniversary — and Alyssa Goodman (CfA) on the emerging field of astroinformatics. Sarah Dodson-Robinson (JHU) will give her Cannon Award talk on the formation of planetary systems; HEAD Rossi Prize winners Alice Harding (NASA Goddard) and Roger W. Romani (Stanford) will summarize our understanding of gamma-ray pulsars; and AAS/AIP Heineman Prize winner Rachel Somerville (Rutgers) and Russell lecturer Ken Freeman (ANU) and will describe the latest thinking on galaxy formation, structure, and evolution.

Freeman will also give his Russell lecture to the Royal Astronomical Society in June, as part of a new exchange program between the RAS and the AAS. The RAS’s 2013 Gold Medal winner in astronomy, Roger Blandford (Stanford/SLAC), will address the AAS on Wednesday evening during the DC meeting. Known widely in our community as chair of the Astro2010 decadal survey, Blandford was cited by the RAS as “the outstanding all-round theoretical astrophysicist of his generation.” He has made seminal contributions in so many areas — the nature of cosmic jets, relativistic effects in neutron stars and black holes, gravitational lensing, and more — that his evening plenary presentation is sure to be riveting.

We’ll also hear from two astronomers renowned for their success in sharing astronomy, and science more generally, with the public. Ed Krupp (Griffith Observatory) will give the Gemant Award lecture after being presented with AIP’s annual prize for contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics. And Neil deGrasse Tyson (AMNH), host of the forthcoming Cosmos reboot on Fox-TV and National Geographic Channel, will present “Tales from the Twitterverse, and Other Media Excursions,” a Monday-evening talk that will be open to the public. (Let’s hope that not all of Neil’s Twitter followers show up — the Gaylord is big, but not big enough to accommodate 1.4 million people!) The plenaries won’t wind down until late Thursday afternoon, when James Lemen (Lockheed Martin) accepts the Berkeley Prize and shares some of the amazing images coming from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

HEAD convenes two special sessions on Monday — News from the Galactic Center: A Multiwavelength Update on the Sgr A*/G2 Encounter, and Consistent Cluster Cosmology: What Are Planck, Sunyaev-Zel’dovich Telescopes, and X-ray Observations Telling Us? Dozens more special sessions occur throughout the week, focusing on topics as diverse as education, the demographics of our profession, how to handle “big data,” present and future sky surveys, next-generation space-astronomy missions, and key problems in understanding planetary systems, stars, galaxies, and the structure and evolution of the universe itself.

The DC meeting will feature a record number of public-policy and other types of Town Halls, most during the daily lunch break and some in the evening. Representatives from NSF, NASA, and the NRC will lead discussions about federal funding for the astronomical sciences and the effects of the ongoing battles between and within the White House and Congress. A Q&A session with IAU general secretary Thierry Montmerle will help you prepare for the next IAU general assembly, which the U.S. is hosting and the AAS is organizing in Honolulu in August 2015. The directors of NOAO and NRAO will provide status reports on our national optical and radio astronomy observatories, and the directors of the Thirty Meter Telescope and Giant Magellan Telescope will describe progress on these next-generation optical behemoths. Not to leave out telescopes in space, there will be Town Hall discussions on Kepler, Hubble, and the James Webb Space Telescope too.

As is always the case when we meet in the U.S. political center of gravity, we’ll give special emphasis to public policy. In addition to the policy-related Town Hall sessions, we’ll hear a special plenary address from a high-ranking official involved in science funding and science policy.

In addition to all of that, the 223rd AAS meeting will feature more than 1,000 research contributed oral and poster presentations, about 150 dissertation talks from new PhD’s, a wide assortment of history and education papers, as well as contributed oral and poster papers to accompany the HEAD and HAD special sessions. We’ve been accepting abstracts since August; the regular abstract deadline is 1 October, and late abstracts (for posters to be displayed on Thursday, 9 January) will be accepted until 1 December.

We’ve also arranged an exclusive AAS tour to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; transportation will be provided. GSFC is the nation’s largest organization of scientists, engineers, and technologists who build spacecraft, instruments, and new technology to study the Earth, the Sun, our solar system, and the universe. During this tour, which you can take on Thursday morning or afternoon, 9 January, you’ll get an overview of Goddard’s current projects from senior NASA managers and scientists, experience “Science on a Sphere,” visit the spacecraft integration and testing facility, and watch the James Webb Space Telescope being built in the world’s largest cleanroom.

In addition to a new venue, our January 2014 meeting will feature a new event: an open-mic night for members to share their musical and other talents with friends and colleagues. Held on Tuesday evening, the spectacle will feature musicians, singers, storytellers, comedians, poets, jugglers, and other performers drawn from our community. It’s not a competition — just a chance to have some fun and strut your stuff (to sign up, use our online form). Cocktails, wine, and beer will be available for purchase at the show.

We look forward to welcoming thousands of AAS members to National Harbor to enjoy everything you’ve come to love about our quadrennial DC meeting along with the many amenities offered by our new setting, from its 19-story glass atrium overlooking the Potomac River to its award-winning service, dining, shopping, entertainment, and more — all in one convenient location and much of it under one roof. Register to attend today!

Joel R. Parriott
Deputy Executive Officer and Director of Public Policy
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The AAS Executive Committee recently approved a new AAS Award for Public Service to the Astronomical Sciences to be given at most annually to up to two individuals who have performed outstanding public service in support of the astronomical sciences. The inaugural award is being presented to Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD).

According to the new award’s rules, candidates should have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in the development of science policy, particularly in support of astronomical research and education. The AAS Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy (CAPP) serves as the nominating committee and may, at its discretion, solicit nominations from the Society membership. Nominations go to the Executive Committee for review, selection, and approval on behalf of the Council.

As stated in the CAPP’s nomination letter, Sen. Mikulski’s strong and sustained support for science and technology, and in particular for the astronomical sciences, makes her an excellent candidate to receive the first of the new awards. Through her leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee, as chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science and now the full Committee, Sen. Mikulski has been an important advocate for increased investment in research and education at the federal agencies under her jurisdiction: NASA, NSF, and Commerce, and now Energy and Defense. Her steadfast support for the astronomical sciences as a whole, from NASA’s Great Observatories to NSF’s grant programs, has been critical in retaining U.S. leadership in the study of the universe. Sen. Mikulski has also played an important role during crisis moments in the field such as the decision on whether or not NASA should undertake a Hubble servicing mission following the Columbia accident.

Sen. Mikulski’s award citation reads as follows: “For her leadership and steadfast support of science and technology, and in particular the astronomical sciences, in the United States.”

Joshua H. Shiode
John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

At the Golden Goose Awards Ceremony last night in Washington, DC, a cadre of researchers were recognized for seemingly obscure basic research that has reaped huge and wholly unexpected rewards in societal applications. The recipients of this year's awards included David Gale, Lloyd Shapley (son of another Shapley you might know), and Alvin Roth for their work developing algorithms for the stable marriage problem and applying them to matching medical residents to residencies, kidney donors with recipients, and urban kids with the right schools; John Eng for his work on Gila monster venom that led to drugs that protect diabetics from severe complications; and Thomas Brock and Hudson Freeze for their discovery of a heat-resistant microorganism among the slime molds of Yellowstone that would open the door to modern biotechnology.

The ceremony opened with a video honoring this year's recipients:

During the subsequent discussion with moderator Paul McKellips,

the recipients discussed their research pursuits

and perspectives on the future of American scientific research.

And though the tenor was not wholly optimistic given the current funding landscape, it was encouraging to see researchers rewarded for their efforts and recognized by members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. The bipartisan group of members addressed the winners and the crowd, thanking the researchers for their great work and expressing strong support for basic science research in the US. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) reiterated his support for the awards as a wonderful example of how to translate the successes of scientific research for policymakers:

Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) also expressed his support for the awards and for strong investments in science education:

It was a great celebration of the fruits of federal investment in basic research, and serves as a strong counterpoint to the cries of wasteful government spending we hear all too often from Congress. With the support of Congress members like Reps. Jim Cooper of TN, Charlie Dent of PA, Rush Holt of NJ, Randy Hultgren of IL, and Senator Chris Coons of DE who were all in attendance last night, the basic research community in the US can continue to thrive.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

MIT astrophysicist and AAS member Sara Seager is one of 24 recipients nationwide of 2013 MacArthur Fellowships, sometimes referred to as “genius grants.”

The fellowships, awarded annually, carry a five-year, $625,000 prize, which recipients are free to use as they see fit.

Seager, the Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science, is an astrophysicist and planetary scientist who has explored the possibility of life elsewhere in the galaxy. Specifically, she has adapted the principles of planetary science to the study of exoplanets — planets outside our own solar system.

The MacArthur Foundation cited Seager, 42, for “quickly advancing a subfield initially viewed with skepticism by the scientific community. A mere hypothesis until the mid-1990s, nearly 900 exoplanets in more than 600 planetary systems have since been identified, with thousands of more planet candidates known.”

Seager found out about the award a few weeks ago via a phone call, although the MacArthur Foundation had to try twice to deliver the good news.

“The first call did not get through because, as the Foundation put it, my ‘very professional and protective assistant’ screens my calls for anything unusual, as I try to avoid calls about UFOs and aliens,” Seager recalls. “This one sounded like a UFO call at first.”

The award, she says, represents the enormous support she’s received from friends and colleagues throughout her career.

“So many people in my professional life and personal life believe in me, and that I can accomplish my very most ambitious dreams,” Seager says. “I did not fully appreciate this until the MacArthur Award.”

Seager adds that she is looking forward to the freedom that the fellowship provides — both for her research and her family life.

“As a single (widowed) mother, I will use all of the grant money on the home front, so my own brain can be free to think creatively, and I can preserve quality time with my children,” Seager says.

Seager joined the MIT faculty in 2006, following appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., and the Carnegie Institute of Washington. She is the author of several books on exoplanets.

— Adapted from an MIT press release by Jennifer Chu and Larry Hardesty

Laura Trouille
Director of Citizen Science
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 Joseph Pesce, an astronomer turned consultant. For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every Thursday.

What field do you currently work in?
Consulting and education

What is the job title for your current position?

What is the name of your company/organization/institution?
Omnis, Inc.

What city, state, and country do you live in? Work in?
McLean, VA USA

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

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?
1) Held a number of postdoc and research faculty positions.
2) Joined the US Government as an analyst.
3) Held non-tenure-track professorial position at a four-year research university.
4) Founded and ran my own consulting and training/education business.

What were the most important factors that led you to leave astronomy and/or academia?
Location and opportunity to found the business

If you have made a career change, what was your age at the time?
32 and 39

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?
Managing large-scale research projects, objectivity, attention to detail, a strong research background, collaboration skills, and an interdisciplinary approach/mentality.

Describe a typical day at work.
Keeping track of existing projects; planning for and managing new near-term projects; business development and interaction with clients; strategizing for long-term growth.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.
I was approached with an opportunity to start my business. This is rather unusual. For the budding entrepreneur, however, I would say to be open to opportunities and be willing to take risks. Starting and running a business is hard, but rewarding. EXTREME patience is the key!

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?
Build a solid background in research and your field. In physics and astronomy, this pretty much opens a lot of doors outside of the traditional career path. Be as objective as possible in everything you do. Understand how to communicate your skills to others not from your field.

How many hours do you work in a week?
85-90 hours: 40-50 in the office, the rest at home.

What is your salary?
For PhDs, expect $75,000-$110,000 (if leaving after a few postdocs).

MS-level is $50,000-$75,000 immediately after school.

If starting/running a business, there is no one answer — it depends on the business model. But be aware it can entail periods (sometimes extended ones) with no salary.

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?
Most enjoyable: setting schedule and goals and working toward them; doing and learning something new every day.

Least enjoyable: the pace of developing new business, getting clients to see benefits that may be obvious to all but them.

What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most?
Like: I can set the pace and the philosophical approach. Dislike: Nothing.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?
A large number of opportunities to be creative. And taking initiative is in the job description.

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

How family-friendly is your current position?
Moderately family friendly. I can set my own schedule, more or less.

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?
Just make sure you do it. Working hard is good, but be disciplined enough to do both.

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

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?
Yes. If you can maintain some level of research activity, that would be best (assuming you want to keep ties). It is hard, though. A connection to a local university (even to teach a course a year) is useful. I very much enjoy what I do, but I wanted to be an astronomer since I was five, and there is a certain amount of grieving that is done with a career change (that doesn't really go away).

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?
Read, collect art and antiquarian books, and garden.

Can we include your email address for people who may want to contact you directly about your specific career route?
For AAS members: visit the online Member Directory to obtain Joseph Pesce's contact information.

Laura Trouille
Director of Citizen Science
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 an astronomer turned tenure-track faculty and project scientist at an observatory; the subject of this interview has chosen to remain anonymous. For access to all our Career Profile Project interviews, please visit We plan to post a new career profile to this blog every Thursday.

What field do you currently work in?
Astronomy (academia) and astronomy (observatory) as well.

What is the job title for your current position?
Associate Professor and Project Scientist

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

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?

  • After M.S., worked as a community college instructor for one year.
  • After Ph.D., did postdocs at Caltech and JPL.
  • Came to tenure track position six years after Ph.D.

What have been particularly valuable skills for your current job that you gained through completing your degree?
The management, purchasing, procurement and interacting with the public from my community college and JPL jobs in particular are the most important for my work with the observatory.

What, if any, additional training did you complete in order to meet the qualifications?
No formal alternate training.

Describe a typical day at work.
Teaching classes, meeting with students, meeting with colleagues for various service components of the job, making decisions related to the observatory with management issues there, answering email and phone queries and occasionally preparing proposals or working on research and publications.

Describe job hunting and networking resources you used and any other advice/resources.
I found my current post in the AAS Job Register. However, I do read technical publications and subscribe to job registers associated with non-academic jobs at mainly aerospace-type industries. I go to technical conferences (SPIE, Vacuum Society, etc.) to present some of my work and make a point of visiting people at the booths and developing relationships with vendors in industry where I might consider pursuing employment some day. I serve on panels for NSF and NASA and meet lots of people there as well.

What advice do you think advisors should be giving students regarding their career path?
I feel strongly that students need to be disabused of the notion that all PhDs become faculty. I encourage my students to explore their interests and take classes not strictly in their "major" as graduate students. I also encourage them to interact with other student colleagues from other departments (via student government, for instance) so they can see a different set of career paths in a non-threatening way.

I tell undergraduate and graduate students that they are every bit as capable as engineers and should not be shy about pursuing more engineering-type roles if that is interesting to them. I try to send students to conferences to interact with other colleagues, and also involve them in web development and outreach for the observatory so that they can get a taste of interacting with the public.

I also tell them quite frankly that a faculty career is not "all roses," so that they are realistic about this and other jobs as they evaluate what to do next.

I give them the "sage advice" my advisor gave me about thinking about the job "after this next one" so that they see the career process as a continuum and not a series of accidental accomplishments.

How many hours do you work in a week?
50-55 hours. About 35-40 hours are in my faculty/observatory offices and the rest are at home at night and on the weekends.

What is your salary?
When I am able to garner full summer support, $80K/annum.

What is your level of satisfaction with your current job?

The job of a faculty member at a public institution is not, as some people would portray it in the press, a low stress, high pay job. I spend the majority of my time rushing from one task, meeting, or deadline to the next and am almost never able to "go home and not think about work." I have 5 graduate students to support in my research program, which means writing proposals for funding (in the currently fairly lousy funding environment) every couple of months. At the university, pay has not been augmented in 5 years, with one exception of a cost-of-living allowance which was fully offset by a rise in the cost of benefits. Because of the recommendations of the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey, I anticipate getting future funding in the areas I choose to do research in to only become harder.

My morale and basic enjoyment of my job are fairly low. I am seriously considering a career path change out of academia, but because of the age of my children and stage in career for my spouse, I feel I probably need to make such a change in the next 2 years, or put it off for several more.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Least enjoyable?
I enjoy: the "aha" moment from students, investigating new ideas in either the research or teaching realm, talking with my colleagues about how to improve my teaching.

I do not enjoy: administrative meetings with little actual work getting done, most of the forms and processes my university has put into place to "get things done" as they are mostly a way to generate paper and fairly inefficient, getting "nickeled and dimed" on my grants from the university administration which has decided to charge for everything from telephones to photocopies, students whining that they did not get the grade they thought they were getting/deserved to get.

What do you like most about your working environment? Dislike most?
I enjoy: being on a campus with all the associated perks nearby (library, coffee house, rec center), my large office with lots of windows and a door that I can close. I do not enjoy: my two-hour commute every day, the university administration that runs the campus like a business rather than an institute of higher learning.

What opportunities does your job provide to be creative and/or to take initiative?
I am fully able to apply for whatever grants I have the time and energy to put in, as long as matching funds are not required. I have the latitude to occasionally teach new courses.

How satisfied are you with your work-life balance in your current job?
Dissatisfied. My work, along with a long commute, requires nearly nightly activity on my part to stay on top of. I have two pre-teen children and a spouse, and therefore there is always pressure to decide "who gets disappointed" — me, work, or my family. It is clearly not ideal but I get very little sympathy from my academic colleagues because, except for the ones who don't have children, it's the same for all of us.

How family-friendly is your current position?
Moderately family friendly. The campus has a daycare, but only for children who are potty-trained or older. They do not have a two-body policy, but are discussing developing one. They added a maternity policy for faculty 4 years ago when the number of child-bearing-age women got to a critical mass and it became an ongoing issue. Our department chairs have supported female faculty/graduate students in the past with reduced work loads when they have a child, which is why it's "moderately" family friendly — the campus as a whole is less-so as they have no formal policies everything is treated "individually."

What advice do you have for achieving work-life balance (including having a family)?
Graduate students in particular ask when is the "right time" to start a family. I tell them two things: 1) there is no "right time," and 2) I wish I'd started sooner as I had more energy when I was younger. Being efficient with your work time and being clear about your goals helps in achieving a balance. That said, I find I'm rarely able to achieve a satisfactory balance. Having a supportive spouse who is cognizant of the pressures placed upon faculty helps as well.

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?
Yes. The only piece of advice I have is a cliché. Life is short and it's important to be happy and make the most of it. If your job is making you unhappy, it's probably time for a change. Most people do not work in the same field they get their degree in for their entire life, and so it seems unreasonable to expect that we (astronomers) should somehow be different in that respect.

What do you do for fun (e.g., hobbies, pastimes, etc.)?
Play a musical instrument with a small group, garden and read a lot of non-astronomy fiction/non-fiction.

James S. Ulvestad
Division Director
National Science Foundation

Here's an update from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) on the Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Grants (AAG) program.

FY 2013 Review Results
In fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013), running from October 2012 through September 2013, the final budget allocated to the AAG) program was $42.4 million, compared to $44.5 million in FY 2012. The FY 2013 allocation was slightly larger than expected a few months ago, and was achieved by obtaining some unplanned co-funding for other programs and then by transferring all remaining AST reserve funds into AAG late in the fiscal year. As a result awards were made to a total of 90 projects out of 637 proposed. Counting the multiple proposals in collaborative projects, 112 proposals were funded primarily from AAG, while co-funding was provided to another six proposals in other programs. The funding rate was 14% per submitted project and 15% per submitted proposal. These rates were quite similar to those seen in FY 2012.

This year, AST systematically queried proposers regarding possible budget reductions that would not impact the scientific scope of a proposal; such reductions may be relatively minor because of reductions in travel costs, or may be substantial in cases where a student, postdoc, or senior researcher had received separate funding after the NSF proposal was submitted. The savings made in response to these requests amounted to several million dollars, and we are grateful to the investigators who re-examined their budgets diligently and thus enabled AST to fund 10-20 more AAG proposals than would have been possible otherwise.

Unfortunately, AAG awards were made quite late in FY 2013. The Congressional appropriation for NSF was not passed until midway through the fiscal year; after the appropriation, it takes several months for NSF to construct a plan for the year and then have it reviewed and approved by Congress. Thus it was not possible to begin making AAG awards until the full NSF spending plan had been approved. Since the FY 2014 federal budget is in a high state of uncertainty, the community should not be surprised if undesirable award delays occur in FY 2014 as well.

FY 2014 and Beyond
The FY 2014 deadline for receipt of AAG proposals is 15 November 2013, at 5:00 pm local time in the proposer’s time zone. Potential proposers are urged to note a significant change in the definition of NSF’s two merit review criteria. Specifically, Broader Impacts have been redefined to include only “the potential to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.” For descriptions of the merit-review criteria, proposers should consult the NSF Grant Proposal Guide (GPG), available on the Grant Proposal page, specifically noting the definitions on Merit Review in Section III.A of the GPG. Merit-review panels will be instructed in the new definitions of the review criteria, and proposers who follow the previous rules may find their proposals to be downgraded significantly because of deficiencies in addressing the present Broader Impacts criterion.

Beyond FY 2014, we are concerned about the ability of the merit-review process to identify the very best scientific proposals in a situation where funding rates may approach 10% or less, against a desired funding rate of at least 20%. Given a fixed or declining AAG budget over the next several years, the only mechanisms to increase the funding rate are those that (1) decrease the number of proposals received, or (2) decrease the funding per proposal. Other divisions at NSF already are taking steps to address their low funding rates in a variety of ways, such as capping summer salaries, limiting the number of proposals that may be submitted by individual investigators, reducing the frequency of proposal calls, and implementing two-stage proposal processes. The community should expect that significant changes in AAG may be implemented within the next year or two; the changes will depend on overall funding levels for NSF and AST, as well as on AST’s ability to respond to the divestment recommendations made by the Portfolio Review Committee in 2012.

Jason S. Kalirai
Project Scientist for JWST (STScI)
Space Telescope Science Institute

The Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) is the science instrument payload of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). It is one of three system elements that, along with the telescope, sunshield, and spacecraft, comprise the JWST space vehicle1. At 1.4 metric tons, the ISIM accounts for approximately 20% of the JWST mass and consists of four science instruments, a fine guidance sensor, and nine other systems2. During August 2013, the ISIM began the first of three element-level space simulation chamber tests. Each of these tests will occur in the Space Environment Simulator (SES) at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Maryland and are the largest and most complex deep cryogenic tests that NASA has ever conducted. We call the first of these tests CV1-RR. During this test (Figure 1), the ISIM will be put through its paces using a high-fidelity simulator of the JWST telescope3.

Figure 1: The cryogenic portion of the ISIM system (top left and bottom) is shown in its test configuration (top right) for the CV1-RR test. A high-fidelity simulation of the JWST telescope beam is fed from below into the ISIM by an Optical SIMulator (OSIM) that is mounted on vibration isolators. The SES vacuum vessel is equipped with nitrogen and helium shrouds to enable testing at the 40K nominal flight operating temperature.

Prior to the delivery to ISIM integration, all of the individual systems and science instruments of the ISIM have completed flight qualification testing. The CV1-RR test will be the first time that these systems have functioned together at the ISIM-element level of assembly. This first test is a risk reduction (RR) activity made necessary by the test complexity. The ISIM configuration for the CV1-RR (Figure 2) will include two of four science instruments (NIRSS3 and MIRI4) but is otherwise complete.

Figure 2: The OSIM test configuration is shown (left) with a Beam Image Analyzer (BIA) in place of the ISIM. The BIA is an instrument package that is designed to verify the fidelity of the simulated telescope beam. Photographs (right) show the OSIM and BIA in the SES chamber. Note personnel at the upper right for scale.

The CV1-RR test will be followed by two cryogenic performance tests (CV2 and 3) that bracket an ambient temperature launch environment (vibration and acoustic) test. These subsequent tests, which will occur during spring of 2014 and 2015, will complete the full performance verification and flight qualification of the ISIM ahead of its delivery for integration with the telescope (at GSFC) during October 2015.

The NIRCam6 and NIRSpec7 instruments (Figure 3) have completed their instrument-level cryogenic testing, were both delivered to GSFC this summer, and are currently undergoing final preparations for integration into the ISIM ahead of the CV2 test.

Figure 3: The JWST science instruments. Clockwise from upper left: NIRCam, MIRI, FGS/NIRSS, and NIRSpec. All of the flight instrument have completed instrument-level flight qualification testing and have been delivered to GSFC for integration with the ISIM system.

JWST at AAS 223 and Tour the Goddard Space Flight Center

The JWST team will be at the January 2014 AAS meeting in Washington, DC, and we invite the community to several events to learn more about the status of JWST and future science opportunities. First, STScI will have a booth in the exhibit hall and will host a number of interactive sessions to get feedback from the community. This will include demonstrations of the NIRSpec microshutter array planning tool, demonstrations of future ETC-related tools to plan science observations, user surveys, and much more. 

There will be two JWST-themed sessions at the AAS meeting, both on Wednesday, 8 January 2014. First, at 10 am, five speakers from the AAS will discuss future science opportunities with JWST in their respective research areas:

  • Marla Geha (Yale University), Stellar Initial Mass Function
  • John Johnson (Harvard University), Exoplanet Characterization
  • Alicia Soderberg (Harvard University), Supernovae
  • Matthew Tiscareno (Cornell University), Solar System
  • Mark Wyatt (Cambridge University), Star and Planet Formation

Following the first special session, at 12:45 pm on 8 January, STScI will host a joint JWST and Hubble Town Hall meeting. The Town Hall will include a presentation on HST by Ken Sembach (STScI, HST Mission Head) and a presentation on JWST by Eric Smith (NASA, JWST Program Office). Following the two updates, recent Nobel laureate Adam Riess (STScI/JHU) will give a science talk related to dark energy.

In addition to the activities at the AAS meeting in Washington, DC, the JWST team is organizing a tour of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, MD. GSFC is home to many NASA projects, including JWST. During the tours — scheduled for the morning and afternoon of Thursday, 9 January — AAS members will get an overview of GSFC, participate in a presentation on "Science on a Sphere", tour Goddard's Integration and Testing Facility, and witness JWST being built in the world's largest cleanroom. AAS members can register for one of the two tours at the same time as the general registration for the AAS meeting. Foreign nationals will have additional paperwork to complete, so we request that you send an email to if you are a foreign national.

[1] Greenhouse, M. A., et al., Proc SPIE, vol. 8860, 2013
[2] Lundquist, Ray, et al., Proc SPIE, vol. 8442, 2012
[3] Sullivan, Joe, et al., Proc SPIE, vol. 7731, 2010
[4] Doyon, Rene, et al., Proc SPIE, vol. 8442, 2012
[5] Wright, G., et al., Proc SPIE, vol. 7731, 2010
[6] Beichman, C. A., et al., Proc. SPIE, 8442, 2012
[7] Ferruit, P., et al., Proc. SPIE, 8442, 2012

Note: This article was co-authored by Matt Greenhouse, Project Scientist for the JWST Science Instrument Payload at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This item is posted on behalf of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and Sigma Pi Sigma:

If you have a degree in physics at any level, enjoy sharing your story with students, and have a little bit of free time this fall, consider participating in Adopt-a-Physicist, a free program for high-school physics classes hosted by the physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma.

Adopt-a-Physicist connects high school physics students to real physics graduates who are willing to share their stories. Working in areas ranging from particle physics research to freelance writing, the participating physicists embody a huge range of careers, backgrounds, interests, and educational levels. Adopt-a-Physicist connects classes with the physicists of their choice through online discussion forums that are active for a set three-week period. Each physicist can only be "adopted" by up to three classes, making lively, in-depth discussions possible. For more details on the program, browse the physicist packet.

Fall 2013 Schedule:

  • Physicist Registration: Now – 4 October (or until full)
  • Teachers adopt physicists: 9 October – 18 October
  • Discussion forums open: 22 October 22 – 8 November

For more information on Adopt-a-Physicist, visit or send an email to

Thank you!

— Kendra Redmond
Manager of SPS and Sigma Pi Sigma Programs
American Institute of Physics, Education Division

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This item is posted on behalf of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA):

The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) expects to start the next cycle of early science observations (Cycle 2) in June 2014. A call for proposals will be issued at the end of October 2013, with an anticipated deadline for proposal submission in early December 2013. Cycle 2 operations will be conducted on a best efforts basis, similar to the current Cycle 1 and the past Cycle 0 observations.

To help ensure that the observatory is prepared to assess the proposals submitted for Cycle 2, principal investigators are strongly encouraged to submit a notice of intent by 15:00 UT on 10 October using our web form.

One form should be completed and submitted for each planned Cycle 2 proposal. This should not require more than a few minutes since the information to be provided is minimal. Notices of Intent are neither mandatory nor binding.

For more information, see

Stefi Alison Baum
Professor and Dean
University of Manitoba

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) announces an open call for nominations of individuals to serve on the Science Organizing Committee (SOC) that will guide the initial planning for the upcoming Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) Sky Survey (VLASS) and organize the NRAO VLASS Science Planning Workshop that will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, 5 January 2014, at the upcoming 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC.

The SOC will be primarily charged with review of white papers received from the community, with organization of the AAS workshop, and with setting up the community-based Science Survey Group (SSG) that will carry out the definition of the survey. Colleagues who can represent the diverse interests of potential VLASS users, including those from multiple wavelength regimes, or colleagues who have expertise in sky survey planning and oversight, or those with interest in any of the science areas that would benefit from the VLASS, are all good candidates for the SOC. Please send your nomination to or use the web form at the VLASS website.

Self-nominations are welcome (please include CV in submission). Acceptance of nominations will close on 11 October 2013.

For instructions on the submission of SOC nominations, see the VLASS website.

Inquiries regarding the VLASS should be directed to

Mark T. Adams

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) announces an open call for community white papers on the upcoming Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) Sky Survey (VLASS). These white papers will form the basis for discussion at the NRAO VLASS Science Planning Workshop that will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, 5 January 2014, at the upcoming 223rd AAS meeting in Washington, DC. 

The white paper call is for submissions concerning survey science goals, techniques, development areas, and overall design. Individuals or groups interested in attending and speaking at the workshop are strongly encouraged to submit white papers by 1 December 2013 to allow ample time for inclusion in the workshop.

For instructions on how to submit white papers, including guidance on content and formats, see the VLASS website.

Inquiries regarding the VLASS should be directed to

Susan G. Neff

The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is the highest priority large space mission in the 2010 decadal survey in astronomy and astrophysics. In addition to a wide-field imager and an integral field spectrograph, it is likely to include a coronograph with the primary focus of directly imaging gas-giant exoplanets and disks.

The Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets (AFTA) study design of the mission makes use of an existing 2.4-meter telescope to enhance light collecting and imaging performance over the originally conceived 1.2-meter telescope.

The WFIRST-AFTA Science Definition team is requesting short white papers for potential coronographic science investigations related to NASA's Cosmic Origins theme or Physics of the Cosmos theme, that could be addressed in a Guest Observer program. These may be used in future design choices for the WFIRST mission.

More information may be found at Deadline for submitting white papers: 1 November 2013.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This item is posted on behalf of the American Institute of Physics, of which the AAS is a member society:

The American Institute of Physics is now seeking applicants for its 2014-2015 State Department Science Fellowship. The application deadline is 1 November 2013.

Issues involving science and technology (S&T) are an important part of the U.S.'s diplomatic portfolio, making it essential for the U.S. Department of State to have knowledgeable scientific input. Through its State Department Science Fellowship program, the American Institute of Physics offers an opportunity for scientists to make a unique and substantial contribution to the foreign policy process by spending a year working at the U.S. State Department.

This is an exceptional opportunity for a scientist to contribute scientific and technical expertise to the Department and raise awareness of the value of scientific input. In turn, scientists broaden their experience by interacting with policymakers in the federal government and learning about the foreign policy process.

AIP does not take a role in the Fellow's placement but does encourage its Fellows to seek opportunities beyond the traditional roles for scientists in the Department when interviewing for an assignment, to broaden the reach and visibility of scientific expertise within the Department. AIP Fellows have worked on topics as varied as critical infrastructure protection, export controls, use of remote sensing imagery, biotechnology and the safety of agricultural products, emerging S&T issues, European and Russian science policy, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. AIP's first State Department Fellow subsequently served for several years as the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State.

AIP is grateful for annual contributions from the American Astronomical Society to help support the State Department Science Fellowship program.

Application Information and Qualifications

Qualified scientists at any stage of their career are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, have a PhD in physics or a closely related field, be members of one or more of AIP's Member Societies and be eligible to receive an appropriate security clearance prior to starting the Fellowship.

For information on AIP's Fellowship program qualifications and application instructions, please visit our website. Application components include a letter of intent, resume, and three letters of recommendation. Developing a clear, comprehensive, and competitive application takes significant time. Start early and contact your references as soon as possible. All application materials must be received by the 1 November deadline.

Final interviews will take place early in 2014, and the 12-month Fellowship term will begin in September 2014.

Please see our website or contact Jennifer Greenamoyer (301-209-3104) if you have questions or need additional information.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This message was received from José F. Ochoa, director of the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship Program in Princeton, New Jersey:

If you have students, friends, or colleagues who want to put their math or science knowledge to work for the young people who need them most, the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship Program offers an unparalleled opportunity.

For top applicants, this prestigious fellowship offers a $30,000 stipend toward completion of a master's degree program at a Woodrow Wilson partner institution in Indiana, New Jersey, or Ohio. Fellows undergo a year-long clinical experience in a high-need school, along with rigorous subject-matter courses, then commit to teach for three years in urban or rural secondary schools, with mentoring throughout the entire process.

The most successful Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows come to us through a recommendation from a trusted source — a professor or colleague like you. Any qualified, interested student — or for that matter any potential career-changer you may know — can apply now for the 2014 Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship.

For more information, please visit You can also download a poster for the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship at

We look forward to hearing from any candidates you can refer to us.

Richard Tresch Fienberg
Press Officer
American Astronomical Society (AAS)

This item was received from Mike Simmons, founder and president of Astronomers Without Borders:

A new Astronomers Without Borders program will provide thousands of free eclipse viewing glasses to schools across Africa where a solar eclipse will take place on 3 November. This is a rare opportunity to expose students to science in a region where science resources are often non-existent. Anyone can purchase safe eclipse viewing glasses, in any amount, for donation to African schools. The need is great.

Schools have been identified and vetted by partner organizations in each country, and distribution networks have been verified. Every donated pair of eclipse glasses WILL reach a student for use for the eclipse. The International Astronomical Union's Office of Astronomy for Development, which is based in Cape Town, South Africa, is providing invaluable support and assistance through their many contacts across Africa.

See the AWB program page for more information and to donate.