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Günther Hasinger

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From the Director

We’ve recently received two pieces of exciting and long-anticipated news. On July 25 the Hawai‘i Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the required sublease, the last approval necessary before construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea can begin (see story in this issue). On August 21, the UH Board of Regents approved two new undergraduate astronomy degrees at UH Mānoa, a BA degree in astronomy and a BS degree in astrophysics.

The BA degree is intended for students planning careers as planetarium or observatory staff, teachers, science writers, or other science and technology staff. The BS degree will lead to a career in scientific research by preparing students for graduate work in astronomy, astrophysics, or physics.

Although UH Mānoa has long had a distinguished graduate program in astronomy and has offered a limited number of undergraduate astronomy courses, it has not had an undergraduate degree program. The new programs will give undergraduate students in Hawai‘i, especially those on O‘ahu, the opportunity to consider a career in astronomy, and to participate in the discoveries being made and the research being carried out at the world-class astronomical facilities in their own state.

IfA is already cooperating with UH Hilo to support the existing BS degree in astronomy there. In particular, we plan to jointly raise funds to place a robotic educational telescope at the existing Hōkū Ke‘a site on Maunakea that will be shared by the UH Hilo and UH Mānoa undergraduate programs.

I am so pleased that these programs received enthusiastic support from all the bodies involved in the approval process required to establish them. The Mānoa Faculty Senate voted unanimously to recommend them, something that had not happened in this body for many years. The UH Council of Chief Academic Officers passed the proposal with flying colors, and finally, members of the Subcommittee for Academic Affairs of the Board of Regents demonstrated great excitement and support for both programs.

With the completion of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Haleakalā and the Thirty Meter Telescope on Maunakea, the size of the astronomy workforce in Hawai‘i is expected to grow by about 20 percent over the next decade. These degrees are one of the factors that will enable Hawai‘i residents to fill some of these positions.

In anticipation of the approval for these degrees, the UH Mānoa Department of Physics & Astronomy began offering the lower-level courses required for these majors in 2012, so there are already some potential majors in the pipeline. I look forward to graduates of the astrophysics program attending graduate school at the IfA.


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