May 2017 Letter from the Director

May was a big month for DTM and for at least one of its alumni. Kicking off the month was the return of the DTM expedition flag from its journey to the International Space Station (ISS). Courtesy of newly elected Carnegie trustee, David Thompson, our flag was carried aboard the Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft on its resupply mission to the ISS that launched from Wallops Island, Virginia, October 17, 2016. With the DTM expedition flag flying from its foremast, our research vessel Carnegie circumnavigated Antarctica in a single season in 1915-1916, taking 118 days to travel over ten thousand miles. In three months aboard the ISS, our flag traveled about 70 MILLION miles before returning to Earth in Kazakhstan, and from there, back to DTM. Mr. Thompson had both the flag and photographic documentation of its voyage framed. He presented both to DTM, to the delight of the assembled staff. The flag now hangs directly across from a painting of the Carnegie, with expedition flag raised, moored in Papeete, Tahiti, in 1929. The juxtaposition of these two images of the flag provides a good indication of the progress of STEM in general and the reach of DTM’s expeditions over the last century. We are greatly indebted to Mr. Thompson for providing the opportunity for this symbolic trip, reflective of DTM’s many ventures into space science.

David Thompson (left) stands with his daughter, Maggie Thompson (right), and Rick Carlson (center) at the toast. Photo by Casey Leffue, DTM. 

Also happening in May was the third annual all BBR poster session. The event, this year organized by Geophysical Laboratory postdoc Zack Geballe (one of the originating trio of postdocs who started the poster session in 2015) and DTM postdocs Miki Nakajima and Erika Nesvold, brings the whole campus to the Greenewalt Building for an afternoon of sharing our research, along with beer and pizza. A new component this year was demonstrations, from Zack Geballe’s hearing test that provided an uncomfortably clear indication of the decline in frequency response of the human ear with age, to Alycia Weinberger’s construction of visible light spectrometers from paper towel tubes. Also on display were various creations from the BBR machine shop that used the new Electrical Discharge Machine to cut out intricate shapes, such as miniature violins, from aluminum plates. We also had the pleasure of participation from our P Street colleagues via the poster by Floyd Fayton and Margaret Moerchen about the development of Memex, the Carnegie high-performance computer housed at Stanford. The poster session provided a perfect opportunity to share in the diversity and excitement of the research being conducted on the BBR campus.

A violin shape cut from an aluminum plate by the BBR machine shop using the new Electrical Discharge Machine. Photo by Janice Dunlap, DTM.




Diana Roman showing Carnegie trustee Maxine Singer a design for a portable, quick-deploy system for field seismology she's been developing with Lara Wagner. Photo courtesy of Carnegie Science.

The day after the poster session, we had the pleasure of hosting an evening reception and dinner for the Carnegie trustees that were here to attend the annual Carnegie Board meeting. With the posters still up and bolstered by additional posters contributed by our neighbors from Carnegie’s Department of Embryology in Baltimore, the trustees were able to get a glimpse of the range of current science projects being pursued in at least three of the six Carnegie departments. As part of the event, Diana Roman and Lara Wagner provided tours of the geophysics instrumentation room where their design for a portable, quick-deploy system for field seismology was a big hit, providing the opportunity to make recordable “earthquakes” by jumping up and down on the lab floor. GL’s Suzy Vitale hosted tours of the BBR e-beam facility that well reflects the cutting edge equipment and laboratory environment on campus. Following the poster session, the Trustees were treated to dinner in the Tuve Hall where they heard presentations from postdocs from DTM (Jesse Reimink), GL (Mike Ackerson) and Embryology (Erik Duboue). A highlight of the event was the tropical theme provided by Gary Bors, whose decorating excellence is well known from the campus picnic and holiday parties. Gary outdid himself for the trustee event with the creation of a BBR Tiki Bar, a sandy beach surrounding the Van de Graaff with direction arrows to each Carnegie department, and carved pineapples in the shape of tropical birds. The event went flawlessly in large part due to the organizational contributions of Casey Leffue, Michele Scholtes, Robin Dienel and Jan Dunlap.

One of Gary Bors' carved pineapples in the shape of a tropical bird for the Carnegie trustee dinner on May 10, 2017, at BBR. Photo by Carnegie Science.

Rounding out the highlights of the month, our alumnus, and long-time Trustee, Sandy Faber, was announced as the winner of the 2017 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize. The Gruber Foundation recognized her as “a pivotal figure in leading and guiding the exploration of the visible universe through her significant contributions to the innovations in telescope technology. Her work in the studies of the structure, dynamics, and evolution of galaxies has led to the widespread acceptance of the need to study dark matter, to an appreciation of the inextricable relationship between the presence of dark matter and the formation of galaxies, and to the recognition that black holes reside at the heart of most large galaxies.” Sandy, while a Ph.D. student at Harvard, spent considerable time at DTM under the mentorship of Vera Rubin and Kent Ford, which we like to think pointed her in the direction of an incredibly successful career solving various cosmological questions. Sandy has been a Carnegie trustee since 1985 and has served many roles for the Institution, including most recently as a member of the DTM Visiting Committee in 2015. Our hearty congratulations to her for this recognition of her many contributions.

Richard Carlson, Director, DTM
Carnegie Institution for Science
May 2017 Newsletter

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