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Table of Contents Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2. Review of the current program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
IVc.G Ethnicity and Gender Diversity of Graduate Students
IVa.U Headcount Majors History
IVb.U History of Degrees Conferred and Ethnic and Gender Diversity of Majors
V Graduate Student Data
Va History of Astronomy Graduate Student Support
Vb Graduate Student Recruitment Statistics
VI Department General Curriculum Data
VIa Astronomy Course Offerings Fall 2003-Spring 2006
ASTRONOMY AND ASTROPHYSICS SELF-STUDY
June 2007 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz is among the best in the nation, and we aspire to become even better. This report covers our activities since the last Self-Study, which was written in January 2000. Our record of achievement since then is strong. We founded and continue to lead a major high-performance computational astrophysics consortium, commissioned a powerful mini-supercomputer on campus, and forged close ties with three other UCSC departments also doing astrophysics. On the science side, we continued to be world leaders in the discovery of extrasolar planets, and we led two path-breaking surveys that pushed the understanding of galaxy formation back to early epochs. In collaboration with Physics, we are in the process of expanding our research into the new wavelength regime of gamma-ray astronomy. For the sixth time in a row, our papers ranked among the top five astronomy departments in terms of impact factor, a record equaled by only one other university.
On the instrument side, we delivered a major spectrograph to Keck, brought the NSF Center for Adaptive Optics to successful maturity, co-founded a large telescope on Mt. Hamilton dedicated to extrasolar planet-finding, and launched what we hope will (again) be the first in the next generation of giant ground-based optical telescopes. Academically, we inaugurated a vigorous undergraduate Astrophysics major with the Physics Department, and class enrollments at graduate and undergraduate levels increased by 20% and 30% respectively; the number of registered graduate students grew by 50%. UCSC astronomers served in vital national leadership roles and served on the boards of numerous universities, laboratories, and non-profit scientific organizations. Our service to UCSC was strong, and three of our faculty now hold leadership administrative posts on campus. Most important, we began to transition successfully from the first generation of leaders who founded the Santa Cruz department to the next generation of younger researchers who will carry it forward. Our newest faculty are among the most talented in the world in their fields.
However, the world of astronomical research continues to evolve, and we perceive strong pressures to adapt our program to deal with trends that are already evident and promise to strengthen in future. This Self-Study reviews the current status of Department programs and relations with our sister units the University of California Observatories and the Center for Adaptive Optics. It then presents the strategies that we propose to advance the quality of our research and educational programs over the next decade. In setting goals, our standards are those of the top few astronomy departments in the nation.
Major assets of the program include: a distinguished faculty; an integrated research program that is well matched to the expertise of our faculty and to coming scientific opportunities; close partnerships with the University of California Observatories and the Center for Adaptive Optics that foster powerful collaborations among theorists, observers, and instrument-builders on problems of common interest; interdisciplinary research programs that span four departments (Astronomy, Physics, Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Applied Math and Statistics); and an exceptionally large group of faculty (fourteen in all) with expertise in high-performance computational astrophysics. Our students have access to excellent computing and telescope facilities and participate in state-of-the-art instrumentation projects. Our recently inaugurated undergraduate Astrophysics major (with Physics) is attracting large numbers of students.
Major challenges include: a faculty that, though large, is strongly weighted toward UCO optical-infrared astronomers, leaving very few Department FTE to cover all of theory and all other wavelength domains combined; a research program that is narrow as a result of this and has trouble attracting the number of graduate students of the quality we would like; an underdeveloped postdoctoral program due to the lack of prestigious prize postdoctoral fellowships of the sort that competing astronomy departments now offer routinely; and a geographic isolation that has impeded partnerships with other major astronomical institutions. Lack of adequate staff and financial resources are additional handicaps.
To address these problems, our most important request is for four additional Department faculty, to arrive by 2010-11. Two of these are already-approved theory positions to fill important gaps in the current research program—hiring these will add needed strength and depth to programs we already have. One of these should be a senior theorist to balance the large number of junior faculty we are hiring and to provide leadership continuity in the face of retirements. The two new positions would be used to start a new initiative inlong-wavelength astronomy, at far-IR, submillimeter, and/or radio wavelengths. Such long-wavelength data are emerging as essential for studying star, planet, and galaxy formation, and four exciting new ground and space observatories will come on line soon at these wavelengths. Access to these facilities is crucial for our research programs, and the resulting broader research opportunities will attract more and better graduate students. A long-wavelength initiative was recommended at the last External Review but proved impossible because of campus budget cuts—now is the right time to restart it. A major goal for the coming year is to figure out how to invest in this broad and varied spectral region and what kind of faculty would make sense, whether observers, theorists, or both.
We stress that our criterion for faculty selection is always to hire exceptional people rather than slavishly follow a plan. The above vision provides an overall scenario but may need tuning depending on circumstances. Prompt approval and hiring of all four FTE before 2011 is very important, as explained in the text.
In the next review period, astronomers propose to become much more active in outreach and development than previously. A top priority for new funds is endowed UCSC prize postdoctoral fellowships. Postdoctoral talent has become a highly visible barometer of department quality, and excellent postdocs are a key element in attracting and retaining excellent faculty and students. Santa Cruz is the only leading astronomy department in the nation without its own prize postdoctoral fellowships.This is widely recognized in the astronomical community (to our detriment), and it must be addressed.
The second top priority for new funds is a research center specializing in high-performance computational astrophysics, which we have tentatively named the Center for Cosmic Origin Simulations and Visualization (COSV). Such a center would provide an intellectual home for interdisciplinary astrophysics faculty, create a vibrant scientific community to lure the best graduate students and postdocs, and help to attract resources for the next generation of high-performance supercomputers, which are as necessary to theorists as telescopes are to observers. An alternative vision for COSV is a theory institute attached to the Thirty-Meter Telescope. Either way, such a center would propel the UCSC astrophysics group to world visibility, as the Center for Adaptive Optics did for AO. We are researching external funding opportunities but will need strong campus backing for space, specialized facilities, and matching funds.
Further high priorities for fund-raising are graduate student fellowships and the Department endowment. Within the Department we will make major efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of the graduate program. We will work hard to attract more and better applicants, particularly in theory, by advertising our talented faculty and the collaborative research programs we now offer with other departments—a four-department outreach campaign is underway for Fall 2007. International students are especially important for theory, and we will attract them through better advertising, making more creative use of available funds, and seeking privately endowed graduate fellowships aimed particularly at international students. We also need to improve mentoring and time to degree in the graduate program, and a study is currently underway, with results available in time for the External Review.
In the undergraduate arena, we will work hard to groom our best students for admission to elite astronomy graduate schools. We ask campus help to fill a major gap in the undergraduate program, which needs a first-class undergraduate astrophysics laboratory.
The final issue is Department resources. The Department cash budget does not cover normal expenses, let alone meet emergencies, seed new activities, or cover anticipated new development expenses. Abnormally low overhead return by the standards of other leading universities is a major reason. The second problem is lack of adequate staff support. The Astronomy Department staff is about half of what it needs to be, and important jobs are not getting done or are being done expensively by the wrong people. Astronomy’s situation is typical and reflects UCSC’s historical policy of starving the academic departments. This flawed policy invests large sums in faculty salaries and then proceeds to waste much of it through inadequate support. Faculty time is precious and expensive. UCSC needs to re-examine its spending policies to maximize overall campus productivity. 1. Introduction The last Self-Study and External Review of the Astronomy Department took place in 1999-2000. The planning horizon of the present document is the eight years to the next review, 2014-15.
Since the institutional structure of UCSC Astronomy is somewhat unusual, we start with a brief orientation. The current Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics was founded in 1966, when the Lick Observatory astronomical staff moved from Mt. Hamilton to the new Santa Cruz campus. These Lick observers formed the core of the new department, which was soon augmented, under the vision of Robert Kraft, by a small number of theoretical faculty. The distinction between “Observatory” and “Department” continues today—the current 15 UCO faculty are paid 80% out of Observatory funds and 20% out of campus funds on 11-month appointments, while the eight Department faculty are paid 100% from campus funds on 9-month appointments.1 UCO faculty are expected to devote a large fraction of their UC service to supporting UC systemwide astronomy, whereas the UC service of Department faculty is devoted purely to academic functions. In practice, it is impossible to divide the effort of the UCO faculty cleanly between the Department and Observatory because research and research supervision are part of the mission of both units. The two faculties cooperate closely to mount the joint academic and research programs, and UCO faculty spend considerably more than 20% of their time—and probably closer to 50%—on the academic side if research supervision is included in addition to teaching and Department service. However, by necessity and by tradition, UCO’s role in running the Department is limited, which is an important factor in determining the effective manpower available to the academic program.
Yet a third astronomy unit is the Center for Adaptive Optics, an NSF Science and Technology Center founded in 1999. Several UCO faculty and many graduate students participate in CfAO research, and the director is a UCO faculty member. NSF funding for CfAO will sunset in November 2009, and active efforts are underway to find support to continue activities beyond that. CfAO is pursuing “multi-campus” status within the University of California and plans to continue its community-building activities such as workshops, retreats, and conferences. As an NSF Center, CfAO has developed very effective education and outreach activities, which will also be continued past 2009 using a variety of external funding sources.
Given the above intermeshing programs, it is important to clarify what the present review covers—specifically, the research and academic activities of all faculty, service of all typesby Department faculty, external service (outside the Observatory and CfAO) by UCO faculty, and future hiring plans for Department faculty. Not covered is service to the Observatory’s technical and instrument programs, the education and human resources programs of CfAO, or future hiring plans for UCO faculty. These aspects of UCO and CfAO have separate reviews and are mentioned here for context only.
In what follows, the term “Department faculty” refers to the 9-month faculty who are not UCO members, while “Astronomy faculty” encompasses both groups. The “Department office” is the academic office (with two FTE), as distinct from the UCO Business Office, which, in addition to servicing UCO, provides business services for all faculty. The “Department budget” denotes the resources available to the Department Chair for running the academic program, which again is separate from the much larger UCO budget and serves distinctly different functions.
The body of this report is in three sections following a newly mandated campus format. Section 2 is a review of the current program, starting with the conclusions and recommendations of the previous External Review and going on to evaluate faculty research, graduate education, the postdoctoral program, and undergraduate education. Each subsection concludes with a list of goals for the future. Section 2 also includes a review of resources provided by the campus to the Department, including space, staffing, and budget. Section 3 presents proposed major new initiatives for the next review period, together with the resources needed to create them. Section 4 summarizes critical issues and strategies to deal with them. Thirty-eight appendices provide additional data.