Spring 2012 Edition

Welcome from Tim Swindle

As well as being time for the LPL spring newsletter, it's also the first month of major league baseball season, and those of you who know me know that I think in baseball terms. Therefore, I think it's appropriate to discuss LPL's future chances the way the sportswriters discuss baseball teams.

We've had a lot of turnover on our roster lately, between deaths, departures, and new hires, and even have a new manager (so to speak), so some might think that means we're in for a "rebuilding" phase. That's a term that often means that a team has been forced to use a lot of young players, and hopes that some of them will turn out to be good. However, teams talking about "rebuilding" years are often teams that haven't been very good in the past, and don't look to be very good for the near future, like the Cubs (with apologies to Jim Head and other Cub fans). By virtually any measure, LPL has been a powerhouse---for example, remember the Thomson-Reuters survey of publications in which we were the leading academic department in the world by a large margin, reported in the last newsletter. And despite the fact that we've lost some All-Star caliber faculty recently, the near-term prospects aren't bad, either. Four current graduate students have won nationally competitive awards in the last month, a graduating student was named the outstanding researcher in UA's College of Science, an undergraduate Space Grant intern presented his research on Capitol Hill, we continue to have spacecraft success ranging from the spectacular images that HiRISE regularly returns to the ongoing Saturnian system science of Cassini VIMS to the enthusiasm building for OSIRIS-REx, and yet another talented new faculty member has come on board (Isamu Matsuyama). This newsletter will tell you a lot of the happenings going on in and around LPL. Some of the names may be unfamiliar, but the level of accomplishment should not be.

Rather than "rebuilding," I think we're in the phase baseball folks referred to as "retooling." Those are the teams that change players, but always seem to win (I'd compare us to the Yankees, but we don't have the advantage in resources that they do). LPL is different today than it was five years ago, and it will be different in five years than it is now. The average age of the faculty has gotten much younger, something that needs to happen occasionally. We currently have five assistant professors, and will be hiring more new faculty in the next few years. Yet we still have a core of the veteran faculty who have been responsible for LPL's greatness in the last two or three decades, as well as some mid-career faculty who are at the peak of the field right now. 

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a transition, and like any transition, it will inevitably have its painful moments. But it is also a very exciting time, because we are in the midst of redefining our future. Like any great baseball team, though, we hope to continue to be the ones that the rest are trying to catch up with.

Take a look through the newsletter, and see what's happening with the LPL "team" these days.

Oh, and don't forget to drop us a line once in awhile, so that we can pass along what's happening in your world.

Tim Swindle
Department Head and Laboratory Director