Fall 2011 Alumni News

Update from Eugene Levy

Eugene Levy was a faculty member in LPL beginning in 1975, and was department head and LPL director from 1983 until 1994. While at LPL, he was instrumental in developing the course "Humanity and the Universe: Origin and Destiny," which has been taught under various course numbers (PTYS 105, NATS 102, and, currently, PTYS 170B1) for a quarter century. After serving as Dean of Science at UA, Gene moved on to become Provost at Rice University, along with longtime LPL scientist Erzébet Merényi. He writes from Houston:

"Last summer (2010), I stepped out of the Rice provost position---after having been in the job 10 years. I finished a sabbatical and joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy here as a faculty member (a position I have held formally since my arrival, but have not really gotten active in until now). For the present I am focusing on writing a book (a textbook for general education science), something I have wanted to do for quite a long time, and which I hope will offer an attractive alternative to existing books. I developed a large part of my approach to the material---which I think is in some ways unique---teaching at the UA. I am also working on developing a new physics course, somewhat innovative and experimental, but I have recently found that a similar course has been given in a small handful of universities over the past decade or two. Beyond that, I am developing my footing as a faculty member unencumbered by the leadership and administrative roles I played for the previous 27 years. I'm looking ahead, to some combination of teaching, science and policy (through the Rice Baker Institute for Public Policy) activities, with the balance yet to be determined. On related fronts, I have remained engaged in various Washington activities. I am a member of the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee and chair of its Planetary Protection Subcommittee. (You may be aware that five or six years ago, I was "fired" from the NASA Advisory Council by then NASA Administrator Mike Griffin; my transgression was too insistently advocating for science over human flight to deep space.) I am also a member (and, until recently, chair) of the Associated Universities, Inc. Board of Trustees, the NGO that is responsible for operating most of the U.S. public radio astronomy observatories.

"Erzsébet Merényi continues as a faculty member in the School of Engineering here, working successfully and prominently on developing machine intelligence mainly for application to analysis of large hyper-dimensional data sets, focused on a variety of potential applications, including analysis of remote sensing data for planetary and earth science, which has been her longest standing interest."