Sept. 25, 2003

Sixto González named first Puerto Rico-born head of Arecibo Observatory

Sixto González

ARECIBO, P.R. -- Sixto González has been named director of Arecibo Observatory, the home of the world's largest and most-sensitive single-dish radio telescope. His appointment is effective Sept. 29. He is the first native-born Puerto Rican to head the observatory.

Since 2001 González has been assistant director for space and atmospheric sciences at the telescope facility. He succeeds Daniel Altschuler, who will become the first director of the observatory's Office for the Public Understanding of Science (OPUS), which will provide a multicultural focus for education and public outreach activities in Puerto Rico. Read about OPUS.

The announcement was made by Robert Brown, director of the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center (NAIC), which manages the observatory. NAIC is a national research center operated by Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., under a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Commenting on the appointments, Brown said, "All of us share in the desire to enhance the scientific purpose of the Arecibo Observatory and bring the excitement of its research program to the people who provide its support. With the appointments of Sixto and Daniel to their new positions, we have the leadership in place to achieve these goals."

The observatory's director is responsible for overall management of the facility, including the execution of basic policy that maintains the observatory at the forefront of research in astronomy, planetary studies and atmospheric sciences.

From 1993 to 1999, González, who was born in Bayamon, P.R., was a research associate at the observatory, and currently he is a senior research associate. Earlier this year, he and José Alonso, educational officer at the observatory, helped create a new program of first-hand research experience in the geosciences for high school students and their teachers, and for undergraduates in northwest Puerto Rico. González himself took part in a summer-student program at the observatory in 1988. González currently is serving a two-year term as chairman of the NSF's Coupling, Energetics and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions (CEDAR) steering committee. CEDAR, which is part of the agency's involvement in the U.S. Global Change Research Program, aims to explain how energy is transferred between atmospheric regions by combining a comprehensive observational program with theoretical and empirical modeling efforts. He also is serving as vice chairman of Scientific Commission C of the Committee on Space Research, an international group promoting scientific research in space.

González attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1983 to 1984 and earned his B.Sc. from the University of Puerto Rico-Humacao in 1988. He earned his Ph.D. from Utah State University in 1994.

Altschuler, who became director and senior research associate at Arecibo Observatory in 1991, was project leader for the construction of the Angel Ramos Foundation Visitor and Education Center at the observatory, which attracts about 125,000 visitors a year and is the site of summer science-teacher workshops.

In collaboration with the NSF Office of Informal Education, OPUS will develop and implement new initiatives that will make use of the observatory to promote public understanding of science to 4 million Hispanic U.S. citizens on the island.

Since 1979 Altschuler has been a professor of physics at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. From 1976 to 1978, he was assistant professor in the Department of Natural Sciences at InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico at Aguadilla. He was a visiting scientist at the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy, Germany, from 1985 to 1987.

Born to German immigrants in Montevideo, Uruguay, Altschuler earned his bachelor's degree at Duke University and his Ph.D. at Brandeis University.

Related World Wide Web sites: The following sites provide additional information on this news release. Some might not be part of the Cornell University community, and Cornell has no control over their content or availability.

o Arecibo Observatory: http://www.naic.edu/ .