Get to Know Gemini! Jennifer Lotz

Get to Know Gemini is a new series of blog posts aimed to highlight the different careers, backgrounds, and types of people contributing to Gemini Observatory and its science.

Name:  Jennifer Lotz

What is your current position and at which telescope?

Gemini Observatory Director (both telescopes!)

In four lines or less, explain what you do as part of the Gemini Observatory team?

My main responsibilities are to execute the Gemini Observatory’s strategic vision,  ensure its scientific productivity and competitiveness, and make Gemini Observatory a stronger institution than when I started.  The job of director requires both leading from within by helping the observatory staff achieve their objectives, and by working with our international partners and the broader ground-based astronomical community.   This includes working with HR and Gemini’s diversity advocates to make Gemini a better place to work,  setting priorities with Gemini leadership for our operations and development projects, and engaging with our users to understand how to meet their needs.  In practice, I’m doing lots of  Zoom conferences and traveling to our sites, committee meetings, and partner countries every month.

How long have you worked for Gemini?

A year

What drew you to this job?

I was looking for a challenge, and a chance to make a real impact in astronomy.   Gemini Observatory has tremendous potential and a number of great opportunities for scientific leadership in the coming decade.

What is the best part of your job?

Meeting the Gemini staff,  and finding out what everyone is working on and what is important to them.

Where are you originally from/where did you grow up?

My parent moved around a bit when I was young,  but I went to high school in central Pennsylvania and college in Philadelphia (Bryn Mawr).  I still have family in Pennsylvania.

What skill do you think is most important to know for your job?

Listening,  and the ability to understand and synthesize a diverse set of perspectives.

Why is astronomy important?

We are a part of this universe.   The iron in our blood was forged in the heart of star,  the platinum in my wedding ring was created by a supernova,  the water in our oceans arrived from comets bombarding the earth billions of years ago, and the sand on our beaches is identical to the dust spread across the universe.    The atoms that make up the Earth have been cycled through the outermost part of our Galaxy to come back together to form life on this planet.     And we now live in a time where it is possible to know this, to look through a telescope and see the formation of planets and the signatures of water and the elements needed for life throughout our Galaxy.   We can use our telescopes to look back in time and see the stars in other galaxies forming and dying before our Earth even existed;  I have pictures of wisps of light from the earliest times on my laptop.  This makes the Earth seem small, but in a good way — our divisions seem less important given our place in the Universe.

What are your current research interests?

I’ve not had much time for research in the last few months.  But I work on galaxy assembly by studying galaxy mergers in the early universe. .

What is your favorite movie?

The Whale Rider

What is the latest book you have read?

I’m working through the Principles of Adaptive Optics right now (for obvious reasons..).
For fun,  I’m a big sci-fi fan.   I stole the Lunar Chronicles from my 12 year old daughter and read them all over last Christmas break.   (I’m a very fast reader).

Favorite beverage?

Coffee.  Lots of coffee .

Check back next month to learn more about the staff that help Gemini to explore the Universe and share its wonders!

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