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Günther Hasinger

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From the Director

June was an extremely busy month here at IfA. We had two very successful high-profile public events, the transit of Venus and the lecture by Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt, but we also took the time to undergo an external review by a visiting committee. The purpose of the review was to have a group of outside scientists evaluate the IfA’s current condition, and to assess its goals and its projected means to meet those goals.

visiting committee at the PS1 telescope

Members of the visiting committee touring the Pan-STARRS PS1 telescope on Maui. From left to right, IfA Executive Administrative Assistant Nancy Lyttle, IfA Associate Director Bob McLaren, visiting committee members Fred Lo, Madhulika Guhathakurta, and Michael Thompson, IfA Director Günther Hasinger, PS1 Director Ken Chambers, and visiting committee chair Pat Osmer. Committee members not in the photo include Michael Bolte, who took the picture, and Michael Belton.

The visiting committee was headed by Pat Osmer, the former chair of the Astronomy Department at Ohio State and now the vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School there, and included scientists who have served in high-level positions at NASA, the University of California Observatories, and national observatories. They looked at IfA’s research program, teaching program, organization, balance between the number of scientific and nonscientific (technical and administrative) positions, and IfA’s public outreach, media relations, and private fundraising.

Prior to the committee’s arrival, the faculty and staff produced a “self-study” document to give the committee an overview of the IfA’s history, current status, and goals. The committee spent two days on Hawai‘i Island visiting Mauna Kea Observatories and IfA Hilo, another day at Haleakalā Observatory and IfA Maui, and a day and a half at IfA Mānoa. At each stop, they interacted with faculty and staff. They also met with UH administrators in Hilo and Mānoa.

At the end of the visit, the committee gave an oral report to the IfA. Overall, they had a very favorable impression of the Institute. However, they also pointed out some serious problems that need to be addressed if the IfA is to succeed in meeting its goals. We must all agree on our goals and collaborate to attain them. They must be prioritized, since there are not enough resources to do everything. As Director, I look forward to their final written report, and I will strive to implement their recommendations.


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Watch the landing on Mars of the rover Curiosity with UH scientists, August 5, 6–8 p.m., IfA Mānoa. Check the IfA Special Events page for the latest events on O‘ahu and Maui, the home page of ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai‘i for events in Hilo, and the Calendar of Events for information about happenings at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

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