Professor Emeritus William Irvine of the Astronomy Department is the Co-Chief Editor of the soon to appear Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, being produced by the publisher Springer. The science of astrobiology is concerned with the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. It is an extremely interdisciplinary field, combining aspects of physics, astronomy, chemistry, geoscience, biology, microbiology, planetary science, and the history of science. The new, 2nd edition, of the Encyclopedia of Astrobiology contains some 2000 entries by more than 400 authors from institutions around the world, the articles ranging from short entries of 200-500 words to overviews of more than 6000 words. The Encyclopedia will be produced in both 4 volumes of printed text and in an on-line version. Professor Irvine has been selected to be on the editorial board of the Japanese journal Progress in Earth and Planetary Science.
A conference celebrating the 20th anniversary of an agreement to build the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) as a collaboration between the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica (INAOE) in Mexico was held on November 18 and 19 at INAOE in Tonantzintla, just outside the city of Puebla, Mexico. The LMT is the largest radio telescope of its kind in the world, and it is now producing its first scientific results. Professors Peter Schloerb, Steve Schneider and Bill Irvine from the UMass Astronomy Department were invited attendees at the conference. Schneider, Head of Astronomy, presented greetings and congratulations from the UMass administration; while Schloerb, UMass PI on the project, described the ambition, dedication, and collaboration that were required to bring to the telescope to fruition.
The meeting’s first day was devoted to a review of the development, achievement, and impact of the LMT project, including talks by officials from CONACyT (the “Mexican NSF”) and the Mexican Space Agency, representatives of several of the major companies participating in the project, and senior astronomers from UMass and INAOE. The second day featured some of the first scientific data from observations with the LMT, with UMass professor Daniel Wang and Astronomy graduate student Allison Kirkpatrick (lead author on the first published paper based on LMT results) participating from the US by SKYPE. The LMT is about to begin the third round of “early science”, in which scientists from UMass, INAOE and their collaborators from around the world use the telescope to study fundamental processes of star formation and the structure of galaxies, from our own Milky Way to the most distant objects in the universe. This third round of science received 65 proposals for observations with the LMT, involving almost 300 astronomers form some 100 scientific institutions.
As part of a recent trip to Japan for an astrobiology conference held in the ancient city of Nara, microbiologist Susan Leschine (Veterinary & Animal Sciences) and astronomer William Irvine (Astronomy) spent an informative and enjoyable afternoon visiting Hokkaido University on July 16.
Leschine and Hokkaido Professors Kozo Asano and Teruo Sone shared their common interests in microbial diversity and applications of bacteria and fungi in food processing and in animal and human health. Sone, who donned a shirt with an image of Aspergillus, related the important role of this fungus in food fermentations and as a source of biologically active compounds for pharmaceuticals and for controlling plant pests. As a leader in applied microbiology and the probiotic effects of intestinal bacteria, Asono described novel microbial technologies for complex carbohydrate production and implications for human health. The recent discovery by Asano and Sone of Tomitella biformata, a bacterium isolated from 25,000-year-old Alaskan permafrost, and its astrobiological significance also were discussed.
Irvine’s recent research interests have been in the study of chemistry in interstellar clouds and in comets, so it was very interesting to visit the laboratory of Professor Naoki Watanabe, a world leader in laboratory astrochemistry. In particular, Professor Watanabe uses his state of the art equipment to analyze chemical processes on analogs of interstellar ices, including the important conversion between ortho- and para- states of key molecules present in interstellar molecular clouds.
The visit also included discussions of astrophysics, particularly of galactic structure and star formation, with Professors Asao Habe and Elizabeth Tasker, and their students and research associates.
Professor Hideki Takahashi provided a tour of the Hokkaido University Museum with its beautiful exhibits that inspire the imagination. Botanist Takahashi was instrumental in establishing one such exhibit featuring specimens on loan from the UMass Amherst Herbarium, including plants and lichens that had been collected more than a hundred years ago by William S. Clark. Clark was the third president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which later became the University of Massachusetts, and the first president to appoint a faculty and admit a class of students, 56 to be exact. The Hokkaido Museum exhibit includes excerpts from Clark’s letters and information about Amherst. Irvine commented, “The museum is fascinating, particularly to anyone from UMass, since there is an extensive exhibit on President Clark and his UMass colleagues who helped found Hokkaido University. In fact, President Clark’s image and his closing words to Hokkaido students (“Boys, be ambitious!”) are everywhere in Japan, even in taxis, on wine bottles, and at the Sapporo Airport!”
Professor Daniela Calzetti has been invited as Distinguished Visitor for the 2014-2015 Academic Year to the Australian Astronomical Observatory in Sydney and to the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University in Canberra. She will be spending a few weeks at those two locations over the Spring 2015.
Two astronomy majors, Aaron Dunbrack and Kevin Harrington, are selected to be the recipients of highly selective scholarships given the College of Natural Sciences for the 2014-2015 academic year. Aaron Dunbrack is one of the four winners of the Robert H. and Patricia A. Ruf Scholarship, which is awarded to sophomore or junior students in the College with outstanding academic achievements. Kevin Harrington is the winner of Dr. Arthur and Dr. Helen Poland Scholarship, which is a two year award. Descriptions of these scholarships are found in the College web page on scholarships.
Judy Young, University of Massachusetts Astronomy Professor and longtime resident of Amherst, passed away in the early morning Friday, May 23, 2014.
Judy was born Sept. 15, 1952, to Bob and Vera Rubin, the latter a noted astronomer whose teachings on black holes inspired Judy to become an astronomer as well. Judy earned a bachelor's degree with honors from Radcliffe/Harvard University in 1974 and a doctorate in physics from the University of Minnesota in 1979.
Judy served as professor of astronomy at UMass from 1993 to 2013. Her work on star formation in galaxies earned international recognition and many awards throughout her distinguished career. She was a tireless support and friend to the many students she mentored, who remember her for her dedication, passion, humor and warmth. She dreamed up and built the UMass Sunwheel, a stone circle whose 8-10 ft. standing stones line up with the rising and setting sun during solstices and equinoxes. Judy led seasonal sunrise and sunset gatherings at the Sunwheel, making the connections between sky and earth real for over 8,000 visitors. Judy enthusiastically shared not only her knowledge and passion for science with those around her, but also her deep love of living.
There will be two memorial services held in her honor:
1) On Wednesday June 4th, at 7 pm, friends and family of Judy Young will gather at the UMass Sunwheel to celebrate Judy's life with songs, silence, and stories, led by Gabrielli LaChiara. This gathering will be held rain or shine, under the open sky. Please come prepared, whether that means bringing a folding chair, an umbrella, or leaving your shoes in the car!
2) On Thursday June 5th, at 10 am, friends and family will gather at the Jewish Community of Amherst for a more traditional Jewish memorial service led by Rabbi Weiner, followed by a social hour and snacks.
Please share information about the two memorial services with anyone who knew Judy.
The William F. Field Alumni Scholars Program was established in 1976 to recognize and honor third-year students for their academic achievements at UMass Amherst. The program was named in honor of William F. Field, the university’s first Dean of Students, for his outstanding support of academic excellence and his personal commitment to bringing out the best in every student. Kevin Harrington, a third year Astronomy major, was awarded the Field Scholarship for 2014.
Marie Calapa, a senior in the Department of Astronomy, was recently notified that she has been selected to receive the Spring 2013-2014 UMass Amherst Rising Researcher student achievement award. This new award, sponsored by the Vice Chancellors for University Relations and Research Engagement, recognizes exceptional UMass Amherst undergraduate students who excel in research, scholarship, or creative activity. As part of this special recognition, she will receive an engraved award, special recognition in campus publicity, and an opportunity for her, her advisor, and special guests to meet the Chancellor and Mrs. Subbaswamy at a spring reception on April 23rd.
Professor Daniela Calzetti has been elected as an Overseas Fellow at the Churchill College in Cambridge, UK, for the Fall of 2014.
It was recently announced by the TMT Science Advisory Committee that Professor Mauro Giavalisco has been selected to be a member of the "Early universe, galaxy formation and the intergalactic medium" International Science Development Team (ISDT) of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
Professor Daniela Calzetti has been invited as a Raymond and Beverley Sackler Distinguished Visitor to the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK, for the Fall of 2014. She will be spending two months of her sabbatical year at the Institute of Astronomy.
Professor Daniel Wang was recently elected to a three-year term on the Executive Committee of the High Energy Division of the American Astronomical Society.