Fall 2012 Edition

Welcome from Tim Swindle

Welcome to the Fall 2012 edition of the LPL newsletter! There are a couple of things new about the newsletter this time. For one thing, we are going retro, adding an abbreviated print edition to the online edition—if you’d like a copy of the print edition, please contact Mary Guerrieri, 520-621-2828. One way to look at it is that the print edition is more for friends who want to know what LPL is and what great things we’ve been doing, while the online edition contains all the “family” stories—who graduated, who had a baby (there always seem to be enough to have at least a couple of cute baby pictures), who has been doing things in their lives that the rest of the extended family may not have heard about. As always, we’d love to hear from former LPLers, both alumni and former faculty and staff.

New, too, beginning with this edition, is a spotlight on donors and gifts to LPL. The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory has accomplished some amazing things over its five-decade history, in the research that has been accomplished, the students who have been educated, and the spacecraft missions, asteroid surveys, and other technical programs that have been operated. In an environment as creative as this, it’s not surprising that there are always a host of good ideas of things to do next. Some get funded (often by NASA), and become the success stories we all know. Many of these never get done because we never find a way to pay for them. Although we never expect gifts to replace the funding that we receive from the state for faculty salaries, or that we win in competitions for NASA grants and contracts, there are times when gifts make it possible for us to do things we couldn’t do otherwise, or do the things we do better.

Beginning with this newsletter, we’re going to try to spend a little space each time highlighting some gifts we have received, or specific activities that have been made possible by gifts. Also, we wanted you to know that there is a “wish list” of ideas that various people around the department have suggested. The full list contains about 40 items, ranging in amount from about $30 (for a subscription to a magazine for the department library) to about $20 million (to establish a world-class research center in an area where we already have a considerable amount of expertise, such as meteorite studies or theoretical astrophysics). We’d be glad to share the full list, but for now, the idea is just to provide food for thought.

For more information about opportunities for supporting LPL, contact me. Or, if you already know you’re interested in helping out, you can just send a check, made payable to “University of Arizona Foundation” and with a note that it is for LPL, to our departmental address, 1629 E. University Blvd., Tucson AZ 85721. In the next few months, our web site will allow donors to give online.

In other news, it is my distinct pleasure to welcome Professor Joe Giacalone as the Assistant Department Head. Joe will primarily be responsible for curriculum issues at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Since he has extensive experience teaching at both levels, as well as having been deeply involved with the graduate program in a number of other ways, he is uniquely suited to the job, and I’m grateful to have him in a leadership role.

As far as department life goes, it has been less tumultuous than much of the roller-coaster ride of the last two or three years. We’ve been producing the same great science LPL has always been famous for. We have lots of stories of discoveries, from a measurement of the Yarkovsky effect to calculations showing that lithopanspermia is more possible than previously assumed. We have had some exciting events, from our graduate students taking over a museum for the summer to a flyover of the space shuttle to a well-attended event watching the Curiosity rover land (followed, of course, by a picture of the descent from the HiRISE team).

Enjoy the newsletter and be sure to forward news of your own!