18 January 2023

The Ojars J. Sovers PhD Memorial AAS Scholarship/Grant Established

Diane Frendak

Diane Frendak American Astronomical Society (AAS)

Dr. Sovers in his 20s during his postdoc in New York
Dr. Sovers in his 20s during his postdoc in New York, thoroughly enjoying scientific research. Credit: The Sovers family

Ojars (“Oyars”) Juris Sovers spent a lifetime in science, crossing the globe seeking new opportunities and adventures, and gaining colleagues, mentees, and friends along the way. A long-term member of the American Astronomical Society, Dr. Sovers passed away peacefully at his home on Friday, 11 November 2022. The extended Sovers family, friends, and colleagues will celebrate his life at a 21 January memorial service and his legacy by establishing the Ojars J. Sovers PhD Memorial AAS Scholarship/Grant to help fund the Society’s Education & Professional Development Mini-Grant Program.

Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1937, Ojars Sovers immigrated to the United States as a young child. Dr. Sovers attended Brooklyn College as an undergraduate and graduated magna cum laude in physics and chemistry. At Princeton, Dr. Sovers earned his PhD in 1962 with his thesis “d-Hybridization and Pi Bonds.” After postdoctoral appointments at Oxford and Columbia, Dr. Sovers joined GTE Laboratories in New York and then the Sony Corporation in Tokyo. Back in the states by 1979, Dr. Sovers began work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology (JPL/Caltech), where he contributed to advancements in Mars exploration and radio astronomy, among other science, until his retirement in 2015. Notable publications include the co-authored “Astrometry of Fundamental Catalogues”¹ and a review paper on VLBI techniques² in Reviews of Modern Physics.

Dr. Sovers during a conference in Japan with wife Zinta
Dr. Sovers during a conference in Japan with wife Zinta, two young JPL VLBI coworkers/mentees, Christopher Jacobs (in dark blue shirt and beard) and Patrick Charlot (holding spoons at table), and several Japanese astronomy colleagues. Credit: The Sovers family

How Dr. Sovers’ personal life and attributes intersected with the astronomical community is best summarized by his niece, Liga Bauer Hoy Tyack: “Ojars, in his keen humility, might be indifferent to having public recognition of his work in the field of astronomy. But, as a memorial to Ojars’ lifelong efforts and to honor both that and his colleagues and mentees at JPL/Caltech and NASA, former colleagues at Sony Corporation, and members of the International Astronomical Union who worked closely with him, it would be fitting to enhance the existing AAS EPS-Mini Grant Program in memory of Ojars. He was a deep, quiet thinker, tinkerer, and explorer of nature, and was committed to his work in astronomy as much as to his personal life with his wife, Zinta, as well as to his larger family. He was a voracious reader and had a very dry wit. He epitomized all that a post-WWII immigrant child from a war-torn European country could accomplish with persistence, commitment, and intellect.”

Ojars Sovers Memorial Celebration of Life
1:00 pm PT, Saturday, 21 January 2023
San Francisco Yacht Club
Belvedere-Tiburon, California

Give to the Ojars J. Sovers PhD Memorial AAS Scholarship / Grant.

Read Dr. Sovers’ obituary in the Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society.

Learn more about the Society’s EPD Mini-Grant Program, which supports training in inclusive and equitable teaching and mentoring practices, workshops on the best practices for teaching astronomy in formal and informal settings, and career development for the next generation of teachers.

¹Sovers, O. J., and Walter, Hans G. Astrometry of Fundamental Catalogues : The Evolution from Optical to Radio Reference Frames. Springer-Verlag (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-57260-9
²Sovers, O. J., Fanselow, J. L., & Jacobs, C. S. (1998). Astrometry and geodesy with radio interferometry: experiments, models, results. Reviews of Modern Physics, 70(4), 1393–1454. https://doi.org/10.1103/RevModPhys.70.1393