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AURA/Gemini Observatory Press Release
For Immediate Release: 8:00 am HST, 2:00 pm ET, March 23, 2012
Dr. William Smith, President of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc. (AURA), announced today the selection of Dr. Markus Kissler-Patig as the new Director of the Gemini Observatory.
Patig has served as the Project Scientist for the European Southern Observatory Extremely Large Telescope project and as an instrument scientist for a variety of Very Large Telescope instruments. Patig begins his Gemini appointment on August 1, 2012 and succeeds Dr. Fred Chaffee, the Interim Director who has served since May 2011.
“My passion for science and drive for excellence are my main motivations for taking up the challenge of Gemini Director,” Patig said in accepting the position. “This is a time when the scientific output of the Gemini telescopes is expected to sharpen and I’m anxious to focus on that goal with the help of the Gemini community.”
According to Dr. Dan Clemens of Boston University, and Chair of the AURA Board, “We have worked closely with the Gemini Board and the National Science Foundation and I am confident that we are selecting an excellent director, one who will best serve the astronomical community, and make Gemini one of the most productive large aperture telescope systems.”
In his announcement to the Gemini Observatory staff, Smith also expressed his strong confidence in the selection. “We have all been extremely impressed with Markus, and I know he will positively engage the Gemini staff and the partner communities to make Gemini a tremendous success.”
Patig’s extensive background in astronomical instrumentation is critical to his selection for this appointment. Gemini’s recent milestones in cutting-edge instrumentation, such as first light with the Multi-Conjugated Adaptive Optics system at Gemini South in Chile, give a context for his enthusiasm. “There has been exciting progress at Gemini in terms of instrumentation,” he says, “I look forward to continuing this momentum and providing new forefront facilities for our users.” Patig notes that recently, when lecturing at the University of Munich, he was “infected” with a passion for extra solar planets. “I’m personally very eager to see the arrival of the Gemini Planet Imager and support the exciting perspective of exploring worlds beyond the solar system."
With his office located at the Gemini Observatory’s international headquarters in Hilo, Hawai‘i Patig also expects to have a strong presence at the observatory’s Chile facility. He adds that while it will take some time for him and his family to adjust to the transition from Germany to Hawai‘i he looks forward to working in Chile too, where he lived and worked in the past.
Patig, born in Switzerland, earned his PhD from the University of Bonn and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). His research interests include the areas of star cluster formation, star cluster systems in the context of galaxy formation and evolution, galaxy dynamics, stellar population models and calibration, intermediate-mass black holes, redshift 1-3 galaxies and the detection of exoplanets. He currently is an author of over 85 refereed papers with more than 3,000 citations. He serves, and has chaired, numerous boards, including the Gemini Multi-Conjugated AO Science Case builders and has observed with telescopes around the world. His current position as a Full Astronomer at ESO includes responsibilities as the Project Scientist for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), Head of the E-ELT Science Office, and teaching at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich.
Personally, Patig and his family are familiar with transitions. “My family and I have moved across the Atlantic four times, but never as far as Hawai‘i in the Pacific!” he says. "We are already looking forward to discovering the great outdoors of the Big Island. As a passionate hiker and cyclist myself, I am sure that I will find fulfilling moments around our new home to balance the exhilarating work ahead."
"As the current Interim Director I have seen what this remarkable staff can do,” said Chaffee. “I’m certain that Markus will be able to accomplish great things at Gemini and take the observatory to new heights in the study of the universe.”
The Gemini Observatory is operated by AURA under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation.
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