The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) has named Jim Ulvestad the new Assistant Director for New Mexico Operations in Socorro, New Mexico, effective December 15. As Assistant Director, Ulvestad will oversee the operation and management of two of NRAO’s principal research facilities, the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). He succeeds W. Miller Goss, who is stepping down as Assistant Director after serving in that capacity since 1988.
“We are delighted that Jim will assume this vital position for our observatory,” said NRAO Director Paul Vanden Bout. “His solid background as a researcher, his broad knowledge of the astronomical community and his detailed understanding of the VLA and the VLBA will help us keep these facilities at the cutting edge of science in the coming years.”
Vanden Bout also praised Goss, who will remain on the observatory’s research staff, for his leadership of the VLA and VLBA over the past 14 years. “Miller’s goal always was to make these radio telescopes the most productive possible tools for science, and to serve the scientific community with distinction. He succeeded, and the excellent reputation of NRAO’s Socorro Operations among scientists is a tribute to his efforts,” Vanden Bout said.
“I look forward to continuing to work with NRAO’s outstanding New Mexico staff in a new capacity,” Ulvestad said. “I am confident they will meet the challenge of operating the most scientifically productive ground-based telescope of the last 20 years, at the same time that we are dramatically expanding the technical capabilities of the VLA and planning for improvements to the VLBA,” he added.
Ulvestad, currently NRAO’s Deputy Assistant Director in Socorro, joined the observatory in 1996 after spending 12 years on the staff of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. He received his Ph.D in astronomy from the University of Maryland and worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the NRAO facility in Charlottesville, VA, prior to joining JPL. He has served on a number of professional panels and working groups, and is author of numerous scientific papers and reports.
Ulvestad’s astronomical research has focused on active galaxies, galaxies with massive black holes at their cores, and the phenomena related to them. He also has done extensive work on the techniques of high-resolution radio interferometry, including the use of orbiting radio telescopes. Together with other NRAO-New Mexico staff, he led NRAO’s successful effort to link the VLBA antenna at Pie Town, NM, to the VLA with a real-time fiber-optic connection, producing the capability to double the resolution, or ability to discern detail, of the VLA.
Goss, who joined NRAO in 1988, after working at radio observatories in the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and the U.S., will remain at NRAO as a staff scientist, pursuing a wide range of research interests as well as supervising graduate-student research projects. Under Goss’ leadership, numerous technical improvements were made to the VLA. Also, the continent-wide VLBA’s construction was completed and that instrument, which provides astronomers with the most detailed images available from any telescope, was brought on-line.
“After 14 years of managing the VLA and VLBA, I look forward to becoming a full-time user of these outstanding radio telescopes,” Goss said. “I have worked with Jim Ulvestad for many years and know he will do an excellent job as the new Assistant Director,” Goss added.
As Ulvestad assumes his new role, the NRAO is beginning the VLA Expansion Project, a two-step plan to increase the scientific capability of the VLA tenfold. Built during the 1970s and dedicated in 1980, the VLA has been used to advance the understanding of nearly every type of object in the universe. The VLA Expansion Project will replace obsolete original technology with current technology and add new facilities to the system, ensuring that the VLA remains at the leading edge of astronomical research.
In addition to the instruments headquartered at Socorro, the NRAO operates the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, WV, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. NRAO also is collaborating with Europe and Japan on the design and construction of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), an array of 64 antennas that will be built in the Chilean Andes over the next decade.