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  • richardmitnick 12:53 pm on August 16, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Dr Ceridwen Fraser, Women in Science   

    From Australian National University: Women in Science – “Ceridwen Fraser named ACT Scientist of the Year” 

    ANU Australian National University Bloc

    Australian National University

    Dr Ceridwen Fraser. Image: Stuart Hay, ANU.

    ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society’s Dr Ceridwen Fraser has been named the ACT Scientist of the Year.

    ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr presented Dr Fraser with the award today at Lyneham Primary, where she went to school, in recognition of her work on the influence of environmental conditions, including past and future climate change, on global biodiversity.

    Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC congratulated Dr Fraser on her award.

    “To be recognised as the ACT Scientist of the Year is a great honour and wonderful recognition of Ceridwen’s excellent contribution to the ACT, Australia and the world,” Professor Schmidt said.

    Dr Fraser’s research has informed our understanding of past climate change in Antarctica, in particular, and associated impacts on life there.

    “How plants and animals have responded to climate change in the past can tell us a lot about how they might respond in the future, with the very fast climate change that we’re starting to see now,” she said.

    “I’m really motivated by the excitement of new discoveries. Sometimes they’re not at all what you were expecting, so they can make you change the way you see the world and that keeps you wanting to go on and find the next big thing.”

    As part of the ACT Scientist of the Year award, Dr Fraser will be a science ambassador for the ACT.

    The biogeographer said she was honoured by the recognition.

    “I’m thrilled to have been chosen to represent the ACT’s many excellent scientists this year, and I look forward to visiting lots of ACT schools to speak to students about my research and careers in science,” she said.

    “I hope that my research will help the world to see the ACT as a dynamic research hub, and a mover and a shaker beyond politics.”

    Dr Fraser is passionate about helping to discover the next generation of scientists.

    “I really enjoy engaging with primary and secondary school students, who are full of enthusiasm and fantastic ideas,” she said.

    A video interview with Dr Ceridwen Fraser is on ANU YouTube channel.

    See the full article here .

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    ANU Campus

    ANU is a world-leading university in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. Our location points to our unique history, ties to the Australian Government and special standing as a resource for the Australian people.

    Our focus on research as an asset, and an approach to education, ensures our graduates are in demand the world-over for their abilities to understand, and apply vision and creativity to addressing complex contemporary challenges.

  • richardmitnick 4:10 pm on August 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Lisa Randall, Women in Science   

    From Harvard Physics: Women in Science – “Tips for aspiring scientists from one woman who is — literally — figuring out how the universe works” Lisa Randall 

    Harvard Physics

    Harvard Physics

    August 11, 2016
    Nicole Wetsman

    Put simply, Lisa Randall’s job is to figure out how the universe works, and what it’s made of.

    Lisa Randall is a theoretical particle physicist.
    Credit: Rose Lincoln/Harvard

    Her contributions to theoretical particle physics include two models of space-time that bear her name. The first Randall–Sundrum model addressed a problem with the Standard Model of the universe; the second concerned the possibility of a warped additional dimension of space.

    When she’s not unraveling cosmic mysteries as a professor in the department of physics at Harvard University, she writes popular science books. Her most recent is Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs.

    We caught up with Randall to talk about why she chose a career in physics, where she finds inspiration, and what advice she’d offer budding physicists.

    When did you first know that you wanted to pursue science as a career?
    Lisa Randall: It came in stages. When I was in high school, I started thinking more seriously about physics. It didn’t even seem like a possibility before that. And then when I was in college, I decided to see how it would go, and it went well. I guess it was really when I did a postdoctoral fellowship at Berkeley, and when I did some important work and was applying for faculty jobs, I realized that’s what I was going to be doing. I probably knew sooner than I admitted.

    Why physics?
    I liked doing mathematical-type things, and I wanted to do something that had applications to the real world, something with lasting value. Even though we do things that seem abstract, we like to think they have consequences and explain things in the world.

    What’s it like to study things that you can’t necessarily see?
    Well, they’re just as real — just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. All observations can be thought of as indirect, and as long as they’re reliable and reproducible, we trust what’s going on. In some ways, it’s more exciting to go beyond the things that everyone else sees, and try to understand what underlies them.

    You’ve written a number of popular science books. How did writing those books change the way you thought about your work, or the way you approached your research?
    I probably do tend to take a step back a little bit more and appreciate the big picture and what it can mean. When you’re doing research, you tend to get caught up in it, so sometimes it’s nice to sit back and think about the implications of it.

    What are the benefits of being a well-known scientist?
    One of the things is that you get more opportunities to talk to people in other fields. And it’s rewarding to think that what you do is valuable and that people want to hear about it, and to give them the opportunity to learn more about it.

    What would you consider the biggest setback in your career?
    I try to move on when something doesn’t work. So I don’t know if there was one particular thing I would say was a huge setback, scientifically, at least.

    Who inspires you?
    I don’t know if this is true for everyone, but really, it’s the science that inspires me. It isn’t exactly people per se, which sounds kind of crazy. But just reading papers and thinking some work was really great — that’s inspirational.

    If you could work with any scientist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
    I don’t really know that I have a good answer to that question, but one person I would like to meet would be [Dutch astronomer] Jan Oort. I would like to see how he thinks. He made a lot of different and important contributions to astronomy, and it’s impressive how often his name came up. And it turns out he also was a really good person.

    What advice would you give to an aspiring physicist?
    Basically to figure out what you enjoy, what your talents are, and what you’re most curious to learn about. To have the confidence to think that you can move forward, but not so much confidence that you don’t think you have to learn and catch up. You want to value your own ideas, but you want to value all of the other ideas that came before you. There’s no real shortcut. But in the end, it’s extremely worthwhile when you’re the one making interesting connections.

    Why is studying physics important?
    Because we move knowledge forward. Understanding deep fundamental things — just think about how much it changes the way we view ourselves in the world. It might not be important to each individual, but for humanity, it’s very important.

    See the full article here .

    The Department of Physics at Harvard is large and diverse. With 10 Nobel Prize winners (see above) to its credit, the distinguished faculty of today engages in teaching and research that spans the discipline and defines its borders, and as a result Harvard is consistently one of the top-ranked physics departments in the nation.

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  • richardmitnick 2:45 pm on August 9, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Fiona Harrison, Women in Science   

    From Caltech: Women in Science – “Fiona Harrison Honored with Massey Award” 

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    Whitney Clavin
    (626) 395-1856

    Fiona Harrison

    Fiona Harrison, principal investigator of NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission, has been selected to receive the 2016 Massey Award, given by the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).


    Harrison is Caltech’s Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics and the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy.

    The Massey Award, given in honor of the memory of Sir Harrie Massey, a mathematical physicist who served as the Physical Secretary of the Royal Society of London and a member of the COSPAR Bureau, recognizes “outstanding contributions to the development of space research in which a leadership role is of particular importance,” according to the COSPAR website.

    NuSTAR launched in June 2012, opening a new window to the universe as the first focusing telescope to operate in a high-frequency band of X-rays called hard X-rays. The observatory’s accomplishments include the creation of the first map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant; the discovery of emission from a special type of neutron star called a magnetar, which has an extremely strong magnetic field; and the detection of the brightest pulsar ever recorded.

    This is the first map of radioactivity in a supernova remnant, the blown-out bits and pieces of a massive star that exploded. The blue color shows radioactive material mapped in high-energy X-rays using NuSTAR. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CXC/SAO

    “These and many other discoveries make Fiona Harrison one of the most active leaders of modern high energy astrophysics,” the award citation notes.

    “It has been great to work with such a strong and talented team on NuSTAR,” says Harrison. “The whole team deserves credit in NuSTAR’s success.”

    Harrison has been the principal investigator since the mission was founded in 2005. After earning a doctoral degree in physics from UC Berkeley, she first came to Caltech in 1993 as a research fellow and began her professorial career at the Institute in 1995.

    Among other honors, Harrison received the NASA Outstanding Public Leadership medal in 2013 and the 2015 Rossi Prize for high-energy astrophysics. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014.

    See the full article here .

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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”
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  • richardmitnick 7:45 am on July 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Women in Science   

    From Quanta: Women in Science – “Mining Black Hole Collisions for New Physics” Asimina Arvanitaki 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    July 21, 2016
    Joshua Sokol

    Asimina Arvanitaki during a July visit to the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Samuel Rubio for Quanta Magazine

    When physicists announced in February that they had detected gravitational waves firsthand, the foundations of physics scarcely rattled. The signal exactly matched the expectations physicists had arrived at after a century of tinkering with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. “There is a question: Can you do fundamental physics with it? Can you do things beyond the standard model with it?” said Savas Dimopoulos, a theoretical physicist at Stanford University. “And most people think the answer to that is no.”

    Asimina Arvanitaki is not one of those people. A theoretical physicist at Ontario’s Perimeter Institute of Theoretical Physics, Arvanitaki has been dreaming up ways to use black holes to explore nature’s fundamental particles and forces since 2010, when she published a paper with Dimopoulos, her mentor from graduate school, and others. Together, they sketched out a “string axiverse,” a pantheon of as yet undiscovered, weakly interacting particles. Axions such as these have long been a favored candidate to explain dark matter and other mysteries.

    In the intervening years, Arvanitaki and her colleagues have developed the idea through successive papers. But February’s announcement marked a turning point, where it all started to seem possible to test these ideas. Studying gravitational waves from the newfound population of merging black holes would allow physicists to search for those axions, since the axions would bind to black holes in what Arvanitaki describes as a “black hole atom.”

    “When it came up, we were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re going to do it now, we’re going to look for this,’” she said. “It’s a whole different ball game if you actually have data.”

    That’s Arvanitaki’s knack: matching what she calls “well-motivated,” field-hopping theoretical ideas with the precise experiment that could probe them. “By thinking away from what people are used to thinking about, you see that there is low-hanging fruit that lie in the interfaces,” she said. At the end of April, she was named the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Aristarchus Chair at the Perimeter Institute, the first woman to hold a research chair there.

    It’s a long way to come for someone raised in the small Grecian village of Koklas, where the graduating class at her high school — at which both of her parents taught — consisted of nine students. Quanta Magazine spoke with Arvanitaki about her plan to use black holes as particle detectors. An edited and condensed version of those discussions follows.

    QUANTA MAGZINE: When did you start to think that black holes might be good places to look for axions?

    ASIMINA ARVANITAKI: When we were writing the axiverse paper, Nemanja Kaloper, a physicist who is very good in general relativity, came and told us, “Hey, did you know there is this effect in general relativity called superradiance?” And we’re like, “No, this cannot be, I don’t think this happens. This cannot happen for a realistic system. You must be wrong.” And then he eventually convinced us that this could be possible, and then we spent like a year figuring out the dynamics.

    What is superradiance, and how does it work?

    An astrophysical black hole can rotate. There is a region around it called the “ergo region” where even light has to rotate. Imagine I take a piece of matter and throw it in a trajectory that goes through the ergo region. Now imagine you have some explosives in the matter, and it breaks apart into pieces. Part of it falls into the black hole and part escapes into infinity. The piece that is coming out has more total energy than the piece that went in the black hole.

    You can perform the same experiment by scattering radiation from a black hole. Take an electromagnetic wave pulse, scatter it from the black hole, and you see that the pulse you got back has a higher amplitude.

    So you can send a pulse of light near a black hole in such a way that it would take some energy and angular momentum from the black hole’s spin?

    This is old news, by the way, this is very old news. In ’72 Press and Teukolsky wrote a Nature paper that suggested the following cute thing. Let’s imagine you performed the same experiment as the light, but now imagine that you have the black hole surrounded by a giant mirror. What will happen in that case is the light will bounce on the mirror many times, the amplitude [of the light] grows exponentially, and the mirror eventually explodes due to radiation pressure. They called it the black hole bomb.

    The property that allows light to do this is that light is made of photons, and photons are bosons — particles that can sit in the same space at the same time with the same wave function. Now imagine that you have another boson that has a mass. It can [orbit] the black hole. The particle’s mass acts like a mirror, because it confines the particle in the vicinity of the black hole.

    In this way, axions might get stuck around a black hole?

    This process requires that the size of the particle is comparable to the black hole size. Turns out that [axion] mass can be anywhere from Hubble scale — with a quantum wavelength as big as the universe — or you could have a particle that’s tiny in size.

    So if they exist, axions can bind to black holes with a similar size and mass. What’s next?

    What happens is the number of particles in this bound orbit starts growing exponentially. At the same time the black hole spins down. If you solve for the wave functions of the bound orbits, what you find is that they look like hydrogen wave functions. Instead of electromagnetism binding your atom, what’s binding it is gravity. There are three quantum numbers you can describe, just the same. You can use the exact terminology that you can use in the hydrogen atom.

    How could we check to see if any of the black holes LIGO finds have axion clouds orbiting around black hole nuclei?

    This is a process that extracts energy and angular momentum from the black hole. If you were to measure spin versus mass of black holes, you should see that in a certain mass range for black holes you see no quickly rotating black holes.

    This is where Advanced LIGO comes in.

    LSC LIGO Scientific Collaboration
    VIRGO Collaboration bloc

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA
    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    You saw the event they saw. [Their measurements] allowed them to measure the masses of the merging objects, the mass of the final object, the spin of the final object, and to have some information about the spins of the initial objects.

    If I were to take the spins of the black holes before they merged, they could have been affected by superradiance. Now imagine a graph of black hole spin versus mass. Advanced LIGO could maybe get, if the things that we hear are correct, a thousand events per year. Now you have a thousand data points on this plot. So you may trace out the region that is affected by this particle just by those measurements.

    That would be supercool.

    That’s of course indirect. So the other cool thing is that it turns out there are signatures that have to do with the cloud of particles themselves. And essentially what they do is turn the black hole into a gravitational wave laser.

    Awesome. OK, what does that mean?

    Yeah, what that means is important. Just like you have transitions of electrons in an excited atom, you can have transitions of particles in the gravitational wave atom. The rate of emission of gravitational waves from these transitions is enhanced by the 1080 particles that you have. It would look like a very monochromatic line. It wouldn’t look like a transient. Imagine something now that emits a signal at a very fixed frequency.

    Where could LIGO expect to see signals like this?

    In Advanced LIGO, you actually see the birth of a black hole. You know when and where a black hole was born with a certain mass and a certain spin. So if you know the particle masses that you’re looking for, you can predict when the black hole will start growing the [axion] cloud around it. It could be that you see a merger in that day, and one or 10 years down the line, they go back to the same position and they see this laser turning on, they see this monochromatic line coming out from the cloud.

    You can also do a blind search. Because you have black holes that are roaming the universe by themselves, and they could still have some leftover cloud around them, you can do a blind search for monochromatic gravitational waves.

    Were you surprised to find out that axions and black holes could combine to produce such a dramatic effect?

    Oh my god yes. What are you talking about? We had panic attacks. You know how many panic attacks we had saying that this effect, no, this cannot be true, this is too good to be true? So yes, it was a surprise.

    The experiments you suggest draw from a lot of different theoretical ideas — like how we could look for high-frequency gravitational waves with tabletop sensors, or test whether dark matter oscillates using atomic clocks. When you’re thinking about making risky bets on physics beyond the standard model, what sorts of theories seem worth the effort?

    What is well motivated? Things that are not: “What if you had this?” People imagine: “What if dark matter was this thing? What if dark matter was the other thing?” For example, supersymmetry makes predictions about what types of dark matter should be there. String theory makes predictions about what types of particles you should have. There is always an underlying reason why these particles are there; it’s not just the endless theoretical possibilities that we have.

    And axions fit that definition?

    This is a particle that was proposed 30 years ago to explain the smallness of the observed electric dipole moment of the neutron. There are several experiments around the world looking for it already, at different wavelengths. So this particle, we’ve been looking for it for 30 years. This can be the dark matter. That particle solves an outstanding problem of the standard model, so that makes it a good particle to look for.

    Now, whether or not the particle is there I cannot answer for nature. Nature will have to answer.

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

  • richardmitnick 7:03 am on July 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Erin Ratcliff, Organic Semiconductor Research Could Boost Electronics, , Women in Science   

    From U Arizona: Women in Science – “Organic Semiconductor Research Could Boost Electronics” Erin Ratcliff 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    July 22, 2016
    Jill Goetz

    Erin Ratcliff

    Erin Ratcliff, assistant professor in the UA College in Engineering, has received grant funding to work toward making environmentally sustainable devices more stable and commercially viable.

    Most people aren’t accustomed to hearing “organic” and “semiconductor” in the same sentence. But the words flow naturally for Erin Ratcliff, a University of Arizona assistant professor with a chemistry background in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

    Ratcliff is co-principal investigator on a new research project funded by the National Science Foundation to better understand and improve the viability of organic semiconductor materials, which are being used more and more in the manufacturing of digital display screens and new electronic devices.

    The $590,000, three-year award teams Ratcliff with Jeanne Pemberton, a UA Regents’ Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Science and principal investigator on the study.

    “I’m incredibly excited to receive this award and to have Jeanne Pemberton as my co-investigator,” said Ratcliff, who joined the UA faculty in 2014. “Her research and discoveries in analytical chemistry have led to major advancements in the field.”

    The NSF project, which started July 1, is also a boon for UA undergraduate and graduate students in engineering and science. Besides working in the Ratcliff and Pemberton labs, participating graduate students will have six-week internships at Next Energy Technologies Inc., a startup based in Santa Barbara, California, that is developing organic semiconductor materials for the solar industry. Ratcliff also is developing a new course, Organic Electronics, for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students at the UA.

    Organic semiconductor materials are carbon-based molecules and polymers with electrical conductivity. They are used to make organic light-emitting diode, digital display screens for mobile phones, TVs and tablets. Future prospects for organic semiconductor materials include solar energy technologies and wearable devices.

    The global market for all types of organic light-emitting diode displays is expected to grow from nearly $16 billion this year to $57 billion in 2026, according to market research firm IDTechEx. Ultrathin flexible organic light-emitting diode screen displays reflect the latest trend, with revenues forecast to grow from $2 billion to $18 billion by 2020.

    Benefits of organic semiconductor materials over their inorganic counterparts, such as silicon, include greater transparency and flexibility, reduced cost and fewer adverse environmental effects.

    However, the degradability of organic semiconductor materials that makes them easier on the environment can also make them less stable and more likely to degrade in operando — that is, when they are used in a device.

    In their study, In Operando Characterization of Degradation Processes in Organic Semiconductor Materials, Ratcliff, Pemberton and UA graduate and undergraduate students in engineering and chemistry are using spectroscopy and other tools to measure and analyze OSCs exposed to different levels of light, heat, gases, moisture and electrical charges under varied conditions to better understand and manipulate the degradation process.
    “Organic semiconductors hold exceptional promise in a number of existing and emerging electronics and other technologies,” Ratcliff said. “But degradation is a major problem for using them commercially. This research project will set a foundation for better understanding and solving this complicated issue.”

    As a collaboration of chemists and engineers, the project stands apart from previous studies of OSC degradation, Ratcliff emphasized.

    “Chemistry researchers have approached the problem by looking only at molecular chemistry,” she said. “Engineering researchers have focused on device functionality. By combining the skills, expertise and perspectives of chemists and engineers, our project will provide the most complete picture of OSC degradation in operando to date.”

    See the full article here .

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    U Arizona campus

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

  • richardmitnick 12:50 pm on July 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Caroline Simpson, , Women in Science   

    From FIU News: Women in Science- “Astronomy professor recognized for excellence in teaching” Professor Caroline Simpson 

    FIU bloc

    Florida International University

    The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has awarded FIU physics Professor Caroline Simpson, the 2016 Richard H. Emmons Award for excellence in college astronomy teaching.

    Through more than a century of operation, the ASP is the largest general astronomy society in the world with members from over 70 nations.

    Caroline Simpson

    Established by Jeanne and Allan Bishop in honor of her father, Richard Emmons — an astronomer with a life-long dedication to astronomy education — the annual award recognizes an individual demonstrating outstanding achievement in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors.

    “It’s the greatest professional honor I have ever received,” Simpson said. “I love teaching, particularly teaching astronomy to non-science students, and to receive national recognition for this is just amazing.”

    Simpson was one of the first physics professors at FIU to transform a lecture-style class into an active learning format. The course was Stellar Astronomy — a basic introductory astronomy class for non-science majors. She incorporated evidence-based, team-centric instruction techniques into her class including collaborative learning methods, learning assistants and a variety of laboratory activities. She also designed and currently teaches online introductory astronomy courses for non-majors.

    Simpson studies star formation in small or dwarf galaxies. Star formation is how galaxies evolve over time, galaxies are the main components of the universe, so ultimately, she studies how the universe evolves.

    For Simpson, what’s most rewarding is interacting with students and seeing their view of the world, and the universe, evolve.

    “It’s fulfilling seeing them stretch their minds to think about things beyond their current horizon, both literally and metaphorically,” Simpson said. “I enjoy delving into questions about how the universe works, learning new things no one has known before.”

    The award will be presented October 22 at ASP’s annual meeting in San Francisco, Ca.

    See the full article here .

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    FIU Campus

    As Miami’s first and only public research university, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, FIU is worlds ahead in its service to the academic and local community.

    Designated as a top-tier research institution, FIU emphasizes research as a major component in the university’s mission. The Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the School of Computing and Information Sciences’ Discovery Lab, are just two of many colleges, schools, and centers that actively enhance the university’s ability to set new standards through research initiatives.

  • richardmitnick 10:54 am on July 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Lillian Cohn, , Women in Science   

    From Rockefeller: Women of Science – “2016 David Rockefeller Fellowship awarded to graduate student Lillian Cohn” 

    Rockefeller U bloc

    Rockefeller University

    July 8, 2016
    Alexandra MacWade

    Agata Smogorzewska, associate professor and head of the Laboratory of Genome Maintenance, presents Lillian Cohn with the fellowship citation.

    Lillian Cohn, a graduate fellow in Michel Nussenzweig’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology, has been awarded the 2016 David Rockefeller Fellowship, given annually to an outstanding third-year student for demonstrating exceptional promise as a scientist and a leader.

    The fellowship was established by alumni in 1995 as an expression of gratitude for Mr. Rockefeller’s role in founding the university’s graduate program and for his commitment to its success. Mr. Rockefeller, who has served for more than 75 years on the university’s board of trustees, and celebrated his 100th birthday last summer, has said that few honors have meant so much to him as the creation of this award.

    Ms. Cohn, who grew up in Seattle, initially planned to go to medical school. She majored in biology and was a pre-med student at Brown University, but as time went on, she found herself drawn more to bench science. “Patient care was still a priority to me, but instead of approaching it as one doctor to one patient, I wanted to do science that could reach many people at once,” she says.

    After graduating from Brown, Ms. Cohn worked at the biotechnology firm Genentech for two years. She knew Rockefeller well—her grandfather Zanvil A. Cohn had a lab here until his death in 1993—and joined the graduate program in 2013.

    “Rockefeller is an incredible place,” she says. As an undergraduate, Ms. Cohn enjoyed the open curriculum at Brown, which allows students to create their own programs of study. That same kind of flexibility attracted her to Rockefeller. “There are no departments or bureaucracy here. You find your own way, and the student is driving the program,” she says.

    Much of the research in the Nussenzweig lab focuses on the biology of HIV or the development of new therapies against the virus, including broadly neutralizing antibodies and vaccines. Ms. Cohn’s work is focused on figuring out why there isn’t yet an effective cure for the disease.

    Although HIV can be controlled with drugs, HIV-positive individuals will develop AIDS if therapy is discontinued. That’s because there’s a number of cells in their bodies that harbor HIV and remain undetected by the immune system. “These cells don’t get killed; they just hang out,” Ms. Cohn says. “If the therapy is stopped, they’re lying in wait, like sleeper cells.” Ms. Cohn is studying and characterizing these cells as a way to understand how to cure HIV.

    Outside the lab, she is an enthusiastic volleyball player—she’s captain of a team that plays through a league in Manhattan—and an active volunteer. In addition to her work through New York Cares, she has spent time volunteering in prisons. While in California, she was involved with the Prison University Project at San Quentin State Prison, teaching English literature and biology to inmates. “It was a transformative experience, and it helped me understand the power of education in the lives of people who had limited access before,” she says. Here in New York, she has taught incarcerated high school students.

    Looking ahead, Ms. Cohn hopes to have her own lab. It’s a goal that not only reflects her love of science but also the obligation she feels to help other aspiring scientists, especially women. “It’s hard to be a woman in science,” she says. “I’ve had amazing women mentors who have inspired me every step of the way, and I want to pay it forward.”

    See the full article here .

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    Rockefeller U Campus

    The Rockefeller University is a world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics. The university’s 76 laboratories conduct both clinical and basic research and study a diverse range of biological and biomedical problems with the mission of improving the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.

    Founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was the country’s first institution devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The Rockefeller University Hospital was founded in 1910 as the first hospital devoted exclusively to clinical research. In the 1950s, the institute expanded its mission to include graduate education and began training new generations of scientists to become research leaders around the world. In 1965, it was renamed The Rockefeller University.

  • richardmitnick 5:31 am on July 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Marcia McNutt, , Women in Science   

    From Science: This is Quite a Story – Women in Science – “Science academy’s new president cleared many hurdles on way to the top” Marcia McNutt 

    Science Magazine

    Jul. 7, 2016
    Ellen Ruppel Shell

    When geophysicist Marcia McNutt took over as director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 2009 as part of the new Obama administration’s “dream team” of scientist-administrators, her first priority was to reorganize the agency to respond to real-world problems. But USGS scientists, many of whom had been with the agency for decades, were known for their resistance to change, so McNutt devised a remarkable strategy. She could not fire department heads, but she could assign them to a regional office outside their beloved Menlo Park, California, and the post she offered was her home town, Minneapolis, Minnesota. One by one, McNutt recalls, department heads retired or quit, leaving her free to set a new direction.

    “We were living in geologic time, so Marcia took some getting used to,” says Bill Werkheiser, now deputy director at USGS in Reston, Virginia, who was McNutt’s associate director at the time. “She made decisions very quickly … we knew we had to change, and she made it happen. But she was always clear, you knew where you stood, and she was fiercely loyal to us.”

    Marcia McNutt on the grounds of the National Academy of Sciences building, with Albert Einstein looking on.

    That mix of decisiveness, humanity, and negotiating skill served McNutt well both as a researcher and an administrator: In addition to USGS, she was the first female president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in Moss Landing, California, and, from 2013 until last week, the first female editor-in-chief of Science. This month, she became the first female president of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the government’s premier science advisory organization.

    None of this has been easy. Indeed, starting with college, hurdling obstacles has been a constant in her life. In the fall of 1970, William H. Wright, a professor of physics at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, ushered freshman Marcia McNutt into his office with what she recalls as this observation: “You are here because you must have said something silly on your application about being a physics major. I’ve seen girls come and go in this department, but I’ve yet to see one graduate.” For perhaps the first time in her young life, McNutt was struck speechless. Class valedictorian at the all-girls Northrop Collegiate School in Minneapolis and with perfect SAT scores, she had chosen Colorado over Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, partly for its promise of closer contact with faculty … but not this sort of contact. “No one had ever told me I couldn’t do something,” she told me. “The one thought in my mind was, ‘I’ll show him!’”

    McNutt went on to ace all four of Wright’s required classes and graduate summa cum laude with a degree in—of course—physics. Years later, as a chaired professor of geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, McNutt declined an invitation to pen a testimonial about Wright in honor of his retirement. “He wouldn’t want to read what I had to say,” she says firmly.

    Wright wasn’t the last person to underestimate Marcia McNutt, or the only one to regret it. “I bow my head to Marcia,” says MIT physical oceanographer Paola Malanotte-Rizzoli. “She has a spine of iron.”

    McNutt grew up in Minneapolis and spent her childhood summers in a lakeside cabin, where reading was the default rainy day activity. She spent many a morning at a nearby farm, mucking out the stables in exchange for a chance to ride. (She later became an expert barrel racer, a rodeo event that entails galloping around a tight cloverleaf of barrels; speed rather than finesse is paramount.) But perhaps her most vivid memory of those summers involves an old Sunfish that an uncle dropped off for the family’s use. Too impatient to wait for an adult to teach her the fine points of navigation, she jumped into the boat and set sail. “I knew nothing, just pushed off from shore and in no time was out in the middle of the lake,” she recalls. “I could see our cabin, but I had no idea how to get back. Then I remembered reading a Nancy Drew story that mentioned something about ‘tacking into the wind.’ Eureka! I tried one thing after another, and somehow learned the difference between jibing and coming about. Eventually, I made it back to shore. After that, I was an experimentalist.”

    That experimental bent led her to physics and mathematics as an undergraduate and then to the geosciences, particularly the then-nascent theory of plate tectonics. It was a field wide open to a young scientist eager to make her mark: Major expeditions were often fully staffed and even led by graduate students, as many senior scientists were hesitant to embrace the new paradigm.

    While in graduate school at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California, McNutt relished the opportunity to follow her research wherever it took her, especially when it led upstream from received wisdom. “I wanted to go places, see things personally, collect data, and revise on the fly,” she says. But rather than focus on what other researchers were studying—the boundaries between plates, where most of the action seemed to be taking place (earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain building, ocean trench creation)—she turned her attention to the plate interiors, and to a mystery that had thwarted other scientists: why so much volcanic activity appeared to be happening so far from the plate boundaries.

    Sean Solomon, currently director of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, was instrumental in recruiting McNutt to MIT in 1982, when he was on the faculty there. He recalls being impressed by the young scientist’s tenacity and drive, and by her ability to speak convincingly to both scientific and lay audiences. “All of us knew who the great graduate students were, and she was clearly among them. She was audacious, quite willing to go where others wouldn’t.”

    Scientists had long noted that the ocean floor deepens with increasing distance from the ocean ridges, where new crust is created. But an area beneath French Polynesia posed a puzzle: Why was that swath of ocean thousands of miles from a plate boundary so shallow and its floor riddled with volcanoes? McNutt plunged in. Using sonar signals to map the seafloor topography, she discovered what she described as a “superswell,” a broad region of unusually shallow ocean floor buoyed by hot rock welling up from the mantle. In a groundbreaking paper in Science, McNutt concluded that the rock’s excess heat and extremely low viscosity had allowed the volcanism to readily pierce the lithospheric plate, liberating fully 30% of the heat flux from all hot spots on Earth in that patch of Pacific Ocean floor.

    This and a number of other discoveries brought McNutt many accolades, among them the prestigious Macelwane Medal from the American Geophysical Union. Karen Fischer, now a geophysicist at Brown University, was one of McNutt’s graduate students at the time. She recalls the awards ceremony as a “quintessentially Marcia” experience. “She wore an Oscar[s]-style evening gown and looked incredibly glamorous,” Fischer says. “We were incredibly proud of her … she had succeeded in science on her own terms.”

    McNutt made a practice of setting her own terms. She rode a red Honda 500 motorcycle to the office, always wearing fashionable footwear. She made more than a dozen ocean expeditions, and spent months at a time in Tibet and Tahiti. And she fought fiercely for her graduate students, once telling off another senior scientist for showing disrespect to a female member of her team.

    For most of that time she was bringing up three daughters—Meredith, Ashley, and Dana—as a single parent. Their biological father died suddenly when the youngest, identical twins, were only 2 years old, and the oldest not yet in school. (In 1996, McNutt married Ian Young, an MBARI ship captain.) “That Marcia managed to hold everything together under those crushingly difficult circumstances seemed to us amazing,” Fischer says. “At a time when not all that many women were succeeding in science, she made it normal for women to succeed.”

    Geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel, who was one of McNutt’s MIT advisees at the time, has a more nuanced take: “She’s an amazing person, an amazing scientist, and has made significant contributions in areas that were difficult to navigate. But she was not a role model. None of us thought we could do what Marcia did—she played at a level well beyond [the level to] which the rest of us were headed.”

    McNutt’s ambitions went beyond academia. “As a scientist, working in a lab, publishing papers that only a few specialists in the field really cared about, it felt to me like being trapped in a box canyon,” she says. She determined that what she calls her “highest and best use” was not doing science, but enabling other scientists to do theirs. So she did what almost no one else in her situation would do: In 1997 she left a tenured position at MIT, packed up her daughters, their nanny, Ann, and Ann’s daughter, and moved to Salinas, California, (“salad bowl of the world”) to run MBARI. “Her leaving was a terrible loss for MIT,” Malanotte-Rizzoli says. “She wanted a new experience, and she deserved that. But geophysics suffered.”

    MBARI, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, was a relatively new venture with a lofty mission: to apply cutting-edge technology to inform and shape the future of the world’s oceans. McNutt took the reins shortly after Founding Director David Packard died, and, according to aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, she quickly bridged the leadership gap. “One of my father’s most deeply held principles was to invest in people and give them the space to pursue their ideas,” Packard says. “Marcia built and expanded on that vision. She took a big risk leaving MIT where she was at the top of her game to come to what was basically a startup operation. And we were very lucky she did.”

    McNutt soon faced an unexpected challenge: The market plunge after 11 September 2001 sharply eroded the foundation’s assets. With fewer resources at her disposal, she directed staff to dig even deeper into matters of public (and funders’) concern, such as protecting the oceans from acidification and algae blooms and understanding the role the oceans play in climate change. Under her leadership, MBARI built a chemical sensor laboratory to detect ocean pollutants in real time, and grew an autonomous underwater vehicle program to make sample collection safer and more efficient. And, somehow, despite the economic downturn, it doubled its staff.

    While at MBARI, McNutt also served as president of the American Geophysical Union (2000 to 2002). And yet, once again, she wanted greater influence. So when Sean Solomon met with her in 2008, this time as chair of an NAS committee convened to recommend a new USGS head, McNutt listened. Joining the Obama administration’s “dream team” of scientific administrators, she decided, would be her next “highest and best use.”

    McNutt wasn’t alone in recognizing the need to overhaul the structure of USGS. “USGS was full of ivory tower types each in his or her own silo—the seismic folks, geology folks, public health folks,” says her then-boss David Hayes, who was deputy secretary of the interior under both President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama and is now on the faculty of Stanford Law School. “When Marcia arrived the agency was not, to my view, living up to its potential to provide the science needed to help undergird smart decision-making. She reorganized it to align with today’s science challenges—climate change, land use—and she did it in a remarkable way, with a sense of openness and respect.”

    Her strategy of offering department heads reassignment to the Minneapolis regional office could have taken a toll on morale, but USGS Deputy Director Werkheiser recalls that “Marcia was a great boss, and I can’t think of anyone who had serious issues with her.”

    She needed that support to handle a series of jolting disasters in her first 6 months at USGS: major earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a water crisis in California, an invasion of Asian carp in the Great Lakes, and a volcano in Iceland that disrupted trans-Atlantic air travel for nearly 10 days. And then, on 20 April 2010, came what McNutt calls her “Omaha Beach”—the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 workers, injured 17, and over a period of 87 days released 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. McNutt says she and her colleagues were caught totally unawares, thanks in part to deceptive assurances from the oil industry that “you don’t have to worry about” oil escaping from deep-sea wells.

    Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with Marcia McNutt knows this: She will patiently suffer fools but has zero tolerance for deceit. She rushed to Houston, Texas, with an overnight bag, expecting a short trip. She ended up spending 4 months in a windowless 2-by-3-meter office at BP headquarters, huddling late nights and early mornings with scientists and engineers, calling every expert she knew who might offer insight.

    Soon after her arrival she was tapped to lead the Flow Rate Technical Group charged with gauging the volume of oil erupting from BP’s well, a highly contentious issue. BP put the number first at 1000 and then at 5000 barrels a day. The group’s estimate, based on bits of high-definition video footage Congress had forced BP to share, was far higher: as much as 60,000 barrels a day. “Others—in government, academia, the press—were shooting from the hip,” McNutt says. “But we had the data.” Pushing through the bluster of what she called BP’s “cowboy, get it done and go home” attitude, McNutt announced the technical team’s findings to the world. “Marcia was pragmatic, she understood what needed to be done to bring the stakeholders together,” Hayes says. “And she showed a surprising willingness to let it rip—she wrote some emails she shouldn’t have, believe me.”

    McNutt left USGS in 2013, many assumed to take over as head of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. But she chose to remain in Washington, D.C., to take the helm at Science, where, among other things, she presided over the founding of Science Advances, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that reflects her concern with maintaining scientific integrity in an increasingly cutthroat publishing environment.

    “At Science, the paradigm is changing,” she says. “We’re talking about asking authors, ‘Is this hypothesis testing or exploratory?’ An exploratory study explores new questions rather than tests an existing hypothesis. But scientists have felt that they had to disguise an exploratory study as hypothesis testing, and that is totally dishonest. I have no problem with true exploratory science. That is what I did most of my career. But it is important that scientists call it as such and not try to pass it off as something else. If the result is important and exciting, we want to publish exploratory studies, but at the same time make clear that they are generally statistically underpowered, and need to be reproduced.”

    McNutt put her stamp on the editorial page of Science with some 60 editorials in 3 years as editor-in-chief. But she admits that she took a wrong turn on the Keystone Pipeline, a proposed route for oil produced from Canada’s oil sands—a project she regrets having publicly endorsed. “I would do things differently now,” she says. “I should have said that I would support Keystone ‘if this happens,’ ‘if’ being changing the process for extraction to make it cleaner, taxing the pipeline so that there is no decrease in the cost of oil, and imposing environmental scrutiny.”

    McNutt also regrets the sexism scandal that rocked Science beginning in July 2014, when the journal published a cover photo featuring a pair of transgender women in platform shoes and skin-tight dresses with their heads cropped out of the shot. Though McNutt publicly vowed to “strive to do much better,” that faux pas was followed by another: a Science columnist who advised a female scientist to “put up with” a male superior sneaking glimpses down her shirt. “Had I known, I would not have run that column,” she says, adding that the editor involved no longer works for Science. “Women have to decide for themselves what path to take in a situation like that, find a resolution that allows her to go on with her career and allows her to feel okay.”

    Now, McNutt will have an even higher profile as head of NAS. “My hope is that she will be an outspoken public face for science, with a focus and emphasis on evidence-based decision-making,” says Diane Griffin, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, and vice president of NAS.

    McNutt is more than ready to embrace the challenge. She sees her job at NAS as improving reproducibility and ethics in science, promoting women in science, and guiding the public conversation toward an understanding of science not as a bloodless series of facts, but as a structured approach to elucidating the laws of nature. “The academy has the job of providing scientific advice to government, and that’s a role that has never been more vital,” she says. “It’s not the role of the academy to say what the policies should be, but it is the role of science to project the consequences. Advice from the academy could be transformational to help the nation—and the world—do the right thing.”

    Once again, and perhaps not for the last time, it seems that McNutt has found her “highest and best” use.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 8:09 am on July 1, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Alison Duvall, , , Women in Science   

    From U Washington: Women in Science – “UW geologist wins early career award from American Geophysical Union” Alison Duvall 

    U Washington

    University of Washington

    June 28, 2016
    Hannah Hickey

    Alison Duvall. https://environment.uw.edu/faculty/alison-duvall/

    A University of Washington geologist has received the American Geophysical Union’s early-career award for researchers in the Earth and space sciences. She is also one of three UW scientists selected to give named lectures at the union’s upcoming annual fall meeting.

    Alison Duvall, a UW assistant professor of Earth and space sciences, was selected for the Luna B. Leopold Award for early career scientists. The award recognizes scientists within five years of receiving their doctorate who have made “a significant and outstanding contribution that advances the field of Earth and planetary surface processes.”

    The honor is named after Luna Leopold, an American geomorphologist and hydrologist and son of author and conservationist Aldo Leopold. Duvall will accept the honor and deliver the Robert Sharp Lecture in December at the union’s annual fall meeting in San Francisco.

    Duvall earned her doctorate at the University of Michigan in 2011 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado before joining the UW faculty in 2012. She led a recent study that used a new technique to establish the long-term history of landslides around the site of the deadly March 2014 landslide in Oso, Washington.

    In the nomination package, UW professor David Montgomery wrote to support Duvall for her “contributions to fluvial, hillslope, and tectonic geomorphology that have fundamentally advanced understanding of landscape dynamics across a wide range of scales.”

    At the same fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union, two other UW faculty members will also deliver invited talks. Virginia (Ginger) Armbrust, professor and director of the UW School of Oceanography, will deliver the Rachel Carson Lecture in the Ocean Sciences section. David Battisti, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences, will deliver the Stephen Schneider Memorial Lecture in the focus group on Global Environmental Change.

    See the full article here .

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    The University of Washington is one of the world’s preeminent public universities. Our impact on individuals, on our region, and on the world is profound — whether we are launching young people into a boundless future or confronting the grand challenges of our time through undaunted research and scholarship. Ranked number 10 in the world in Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings and educating more than 54,000 students annually, our students and faculty work together to turn ideas into impact and in the process transform lives and our world. For more about our impact on the world, every day.

    So what defines us — the students, faculty and community members at the University of Washington? Above all, it’s our belief in possibility and our unshakable optimism. It’s a connection to others, both near and far. It’s a hunger that pushes us to tackle challenges and pursue progress. It’s the conviction that together we can create a world of good. Join us on the journey.

  • richardmitnick 4:54 pm on June 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anaïs Bernard, , , , Women in Science   

    From Gemini: Women in Science – “Capturing “Shocking” Young Stars in N159W” Anaïs Bernard 


    Gemini Observatory
    Gemini Observatory

    29 Jun 2016

    Anaïs Bernard

    The world’s most advanced adaptive optics system reveals “shocking” details on star formation in a new image released by the Gemini Observatory. Benoit Neichel of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, worked with PhD student Anaïs Bernard on the research behind the image. Bernard came to Gemini South with Neichel as part of Gemini’s Bring One, Get One program, and plans to complete her PhD based on this work in 2017.

    Bernard’s trip to Gemini was her first experience at a large telescope facility.

    “I was impressed by the laser guide stars propagating in the direction of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), pointing to the field that we had carefully selected in the previous months,” says Bernard.

    Perfect Conditions

    Gemini systems were performing well, but the seeing conditions for the first three nights of their run weren’t great. Bernard said she and Neichel were anxious at the beginning of their observing night, but the sky was extremely clear. That particular night happened to be the best of the run, and they were lucky enough to capture N159W in the LMC with the Gemini Multi-object Spectrograph (GeMS) lasers and the Gemini South Adaptive Optics Imager (GSAOI) right from the first part of the night.


    Gemini GSAOI instrument
    Gemini GSAOI instrument

    Bernard emphasizes that those data represent a major step in her PhD program. She spent months selecting targets and adjusting all the observation parameters, learning how to position the field, where to take the background image, which star should be used for the photometric calibration.

    “I was impressed to see that everything ran exactly according to our plan, and the results came out even better than what I would have expected!”

    Gemini South GeMS/GSAOI near-infrared image of the N159W field in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image spans 1.5 arcminutes across, resolves stars to about 0.09 arcseconds, and is a composite of three filters (J, H, and Ks).

    Data Analysis

    Apart from the scientific analysis of the data, Bernard also used the images to develop new data reduction tools.

    “Those images are also the key data set that we are using to define and test new data reduction tools. As the level of details and the large field provided by GeMS/GSAOI are unique, new data reduction and analysis tools must be developed. This is also exciting because even once we are back in our office, far from the telescope, we can still significantly improve the quality of those sharp images, and optimize the scientific return of the instrument.”

    See the full article here .

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    Gemini North
    Gemini North, Hawai’i

    Gemini South
    Gemini South, Chile
    AURA Icon

    Gemini’s mission is to advance our knowledge of the Universe by providing the international Gemini Community with forefront access to the entire sky.

    The Gemini Observatory is an international collaboration with two identical 8-meter telescopes. The Frederick C. Gillett Gemini Telescope is located on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i (Gemini North) and the other telescope on Cerro Pachón in central Chile (Gemini South); together the twin telescopes provide full coverage over both hemispheres of the sky. The telescopes incorporate technologies that allow large, relatively thin mirrors, under active control, to collect and focus both visible and infrared radiation from space.

    The Gemini Observatory provides the astronomical communities in six partner countries with state-of-the-art astronomical facilities that allocate observing time in proportion to each country’s contribution. In addition to financial support, each country also contributes significant scientific and technical resources. The national research agencies that form the Gemini partnership include: the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Canadian National Research Council (NRC), the Chilean Comisión Nacional de Investigación Cientifica y Tecnológica (CONICYT), the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Argentinean Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva, and the Brazilian Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação. The observatory is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA) under a cooperative agreement with the NSF. The NSF also serves as the executive agency for the international partnership.

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