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Stefi Baum

Stefi Baum

Rochester Institute of Technology

I earned a BA in physics with honors from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Maryland.  After a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy and Hubble Fellowship at The Johns Hopkins University, I spent 13 years at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). 

While at STScI I served as lead scientist on the development of the Hubble Space Telescope archive, the first fully functional pipeline and on-line archive for astronomical data; led the science operations center’s development and deployment of a major astronomical instrument, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph; and finally was the Head of the Engineering and Software Services Division. I then served as science diplomacy fellowship at the US. Department of State through the American Institute of Physics - promoting agricultural biotechnology in developing and developed countries.

I then joined the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in July 2004 as Professor and Director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. The Center produces next generation educators and researchers who develop and deploy imaging systems to answer fundamental scientific questions, monitor and protect our environment, help keep our nation secure, aid medical researchers and practitioners, and improve humanity’s standard of living through innovations that expand human perception and understanding. 

My astronomical research focuses on the study of activity in galaxies and its relation to galaxy evolution. I was initially interested in a broad range of science and medicine. I became an accidental astronomer after graduating from Harvard when a teaching opportunity fell through and I started working for the Einstein Observatory at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  I was inspired by amazing mentors to go into astronomy, never looked back and here I am!  I remain interested in a broad range of science and seek out the interconnections a range of scientific disciplines and astronomy.


Chris O'Dea

Chris O'Dea

Rochester Institute of Technology

I received a BS in Physics from MIT in 1978 and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from University of Massachusetts (Amherst) in 1984. I held postdoctoral research fellowships at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (Charlottesville, VA) and the Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy (Dwingeloo, NL).

In 1990 I joined the science staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). After 14 years at STScI I moved to the Rochester Institute of Technology where I am now a tenured Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy. I am also serving as chairman of the board of the NY Astronomical Corporation which is currently planning a $100 million 12-m optical-near-IR telescope for use of the NY State astronomical community. My research is focused on active galactic nuclei and clusters of galaxies.

I grew up in the Virgin Islands where the night skies were dark and beautiful. When I was around nine I started reading a lot of science and science fiction. The fascinating ideas in these books led me to want to become an astronomer. I enjoy solving scientific puzzles and for a long time have been trying to understand how super massive black holes influence their environments.



(Image courtesy of NRAO/AUI/K.Gatlin/P.Smiley)


Rick Perley

Rick Perley

NRAO: VLA/VLBA Socorro, NM

I was hired by the NRAO in late 1977 as the first VLA postdoc, following my degree in Astronomy from the University of Maryland. It was for me a great honor, and a great opportunity, to be in place to use the world's greatest synthesis radio astronomy array, which at that time was still under construction. Following its official completion in 1980, I was able to use the facility for a wide range of research over the next two decades, and to work closely with many talented individuals to develop the methodologies now in common use for calibrating and imaging the data generated by the array.

Instrumental development never ends — particularly for a facility like the VLA, which so heavily depends on leading-edge technologies. Even by 1990, it was clear that the facility could be hugely improved — and the range of science which it could address be greatly expanded — by implementation of newer, better technologies. Beginning in the mid 1990s, much of my energies went into developing a proposal to the NSF to massively upgrade the VLA. The resulting proposal, benefiting from magnificent efforts by many talented people, was submitted to the NSF in 2000. The upgrade project began the following year, and since that time, nearly all of my efforts have gone towards supporting this project, which has so successfully produced an exquisite and powerful telescope, to be used by thousands of curious astronomers hoping to uncover the physical processes which drive the constituents of our universe.

One event, and one personal characteristic, were primarily responsible for my becoming an astronomer. The event was the summer job I got following my third year in university at the Canadian National Research Council's radio astronomy group in Ottawa. Part of the job was to spend time at the Algonquin Radio Telescope, located in a wilderness park in eastern Ontario. Here is where I was hugely impressed by the observatory experience and, incidentally, where I discovered wilderness canoeing, an activity which also figured large for me in later years. The characteristic is my love of travel. In my fourth year in university, the physics faculty impressed upon the graduating class the need to choose a branch of physics to specialize in for graduate work. I surveyed the various groups, primarily noting which benefited by the most travel to the most exotic locations. The astronomers were the clear leaders! And so the decision was made.
I've never regretted it.


Bill Cotton

Bill Cotton

NRAO: Charlottesville, VA

As a young child I was always fascinated by space and astronomy. I would spend hours watching the sky in rural North Carolina. It was with great pleasure that I learned that one could make a career of astronomy. I studied physics, chemistry and math at Pfeiffer College (now University) and studied astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin. In 1975 I did an astronomy postdoc at MIT. I moved to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville Virginia in 1980 where I have been since.

My scientific interests have been the nuclei of active galaxies, the atmospheres of dying stars and surveys of the radio sky. Much of my research has involved array telescopes in which multiple smaller instruments are ganged together to allow us to see much finer detail. A lot of my effort has gone into making ever better images from such instruments.

I maintain public access to a number of extensive radio sky surveys:
NRAO/VLA Sky Survey (NVSS)
VLA Low-Frequency Sky Survey Redux
SIRTF First Look Survey/VLA Server

Life as an astronomer allows extensive travel, presenting results at international meetings and working with collaborators all over the world. Astronomy is a truly global science.