UH astronomy chief sees stars ahead


POSTED: Friday, February 05, 2010

Directing the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy “;is a wonderful job,”; but “;10 years is a long time,”; says Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, who will step down at the end of the year.

He will take a sabbatical starting in January and will return to the institute as a faculty member to continue teaching and research. He said the Manoa chancellor will start an international search for a new director.


After 30 years in director positions here and in Germany, Kudritzki said in an interview he wants to spend more time on his scientific work—developing methods to learn more about the formation, composition and evolution of stars.

Former IFA Director Donald N.B. Hall, who moved to Hilo with the IFA in 1997 after developing the UH astronomy program for 13 years, said the director's job is “;very rewarding but also very demanding, and I think Rolf has done an outstanding job of bringing in new telescopes and continuing to grow things on the basis that John Jefferies (the first IFA director) and then I created.

“;It's a real tribute to the power of the program we've built up that two of the three previous directors want to stay here and do their research,”; Hall added.

Kudritzki's goal upon becoming director was to bring big telescopes to Hawaii, and he has “;played a key role in the efforts to bring the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope to Haleakala and the Thirty Meter Telescope to Mauna Kea,”; said IFA Associate Director Robert McLaren.

“;Another major goal that he has promoted vigorously is the development by IFA of its own new telescope, and we see that now coming to fruition in Pan-STARRS.”; That stands for the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System, on Haleakala.

Kudritzki also has greatly expanded outreach and other activities at the institute, said McLaren, who was interim director from July 1997 until Kudritzki's appointment.

He has hired 15 new faculty members and increased the number of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, most of whom hold prestigious fellowships, McLaren said.

Kudritzki said he has continued his research with help from collaborators and students and a lot of time after hours or over weekends “;and sometimes during office hours when I should have been doing the 'director's job.'”;

He said he reached the stage where he thought, “;Wouldn't it be great if you could just feel like a post-doc, to wake up in the morning and all I have to do is my science work? It's a great thought. I find it more and more attractive.”;