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Spirited Cornell-JPL agreement opens opportunities

David Skorton and Charles Elachi
Dave Burbank
Cornell President David Skorton, left, and JPL Director Charles Elachi sign a memorandum of understanding Nov. 8, as Cornell becomes the laboratory's newest strategic partner.

Cornell President David Skorton and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Director Charles Elachi signed a memorandum of understanding Nov. 8 making Cornell the California lab’s latest strategic partner, and the agreement opens a galaxy of opportunity for students and faculty.

Cornell becomes the 13th institution to join JPL’s Strategic University Partnership Program, which supports undergraduate summer internships, as well as collaborative research and educational activities.

“This is truly a cross-campus effort,” said Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences. At the signing ceremony, he explained that this agreement brings together the university’s space sciences, engineering, and earth and atmospheric sciences departments. Lunine credited Professor Mark Campbell, the S.C. Thomas Sze Director of the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with helping forge the JPL agreement. Lunine and Campbell will implement the MOU.

Lunine also acknowledged Terry Herter, professor and chair in astronomy, and Larry D. Brown, the Sidney Kaufman Professor in Geophysics and chair of the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, for their contributions in shaping the agreement.

Cornell and JPL’s collaborative history includes the Cassini-Huygens mission that included Joseph Burns, the Irving Porter Church Professor of Engineering, professor of astronomy and dean of the faculty, and the Mars Exploration Rover mission that landed twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the red planet in 2004. Steve Squyres, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, is the rover mission’s scientific principal investigator.

Stressing this campuswide effort, Lunine said: “This really is a vehicle for novel, collaborative research across the campus – for both research and teaching. Now, let the fun begin.”

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