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and project management techniques required to

In addition to our primary responsibility of bringing

bring complex large science facilities within the

the two telescopes into steady-state operation, a

tight budgetary constraints imposed by the Gemini

critical shared task was to prevent the accumulation

partnership. He saw first hand the advantages and

of the many small “random mutations” (in Jean-René’s

pitfalls of using both an industrial and university

words) that, like natural selection, can act to drive a

culture to deliver complex scientific facilities and

divergence of the two telescopes. To those ends, we

instrumentation. In addition, Dr. Roy had to lead the

talked daily via our desktop videoconference stations,

creation of the first full-time science staff in Hawai‘i,

often for an hour or more, so that it felt almost like

and manage the interaction between the “construction

sharing a conventional office.

culture” and “operations culture” that such transitions entail. As he said to me on many occasions, “They

In addition to shared tasks, we also had specific

never tell you how to do this stuff in graduate school,

assignments. No one who has heard one of Jean-René’s

nor do they tell you how many decisions you have to

enthusiastic presentations summarizing the science

make before morning coffee!”

highlights from the telescopes will forget it. What is remarkable is that this focus on science carried over

Throughout all of this, Jean-René never (okay only

to such a detailed level that–at any meeting–Jean-

rarely) lost his good humor. As he used to remind

René could (and frequently would) go around the

me on many occasions, “This is only astronomy.”

table and recall the research results from each of the

But, the one thing he never lost, throughout all the

members of whichever committee was convened. One

years Jean-René and I have argued, wept, or cheered

particularly striking aspect of that taxicab interview

together, was his infectious intellectual excitement of

back in 1999 was Jean-René’s description of how he

the potential of the Gemini telescopes.

deliberately “re-invented” his career every 10 years, moving through solar astronomy, ionized nebulae,

Matt Mountain is currently the director of the Space Telescope

and then Gemini. So, it is no surprise to me that we

Science Institute (STScI). He came to Gemini in 1992 as project

now find him moving on to new challenges in his

scientist and served as director from 1994 until 2005 when he

next career.

assumed his current position at STScI. See profile on Matt Mountain starting on page 12 of this issue.

Phil Puxley currently serves as program director for facilities at the U.S. National Science Foundation where he works primarily

Phil Puxley

on the ALMA project. Until 2006, Phil was associate director of Gemini South, a position that was filled by Jean-René as

Jean-René joined the Gemini Board at about the same

deputy director at Gemini South.

time that I joined the Gemini staff, in 1996. After a six month roller coaster ride getting up to speed with the Gemini team (at that time based on the roof of the NOAO building in Tucson) and a lot of travel, I distinctly remember my first board meeting. I recall wondering how the members could possibly stay on top of all the complex construction, operations and partnership issues. In this instance, the answer turned out to be “quite easily” since Jean-René shared a passion for the project that was equaled only by the staff itself. Thus, it was no surprise when I found myself in 1999 in a telephone interview (from the back of a taxi; did I mention there was a lot of travel?) with Jean-René, who was soon to become Gemini North associate director. After a relatively brief but intense handover, in which our own partnership was forged, I left for Chile to become Jean-René’s twin at Gemini South.



Issue 38 - June 2009  


Issue 38 - June 2009