Dr. Beth Willman to Lead LSSTC

LSSTC is pleased to announce that Dr. Beth Willman will join the Corporation on September 7th 2022 to become its next Executive Director, taking on the previously separate roles of Chief Executive Officer and Director of Science.

Dr. Willman is a world leader in the science and management of ground-based astronomy facilities.  Her 20 years of research accomplishments have utilized wide-field survey datasets that are precursors to the Rubin LSST.  Her primary scientific focus has been near-field cosmology, the detailed study of the nearby universe to answer questions such as “How has the universe formed and evolved?” and “What is the nature of dark matter?”.  Willman led the research team that discovered the first ultra-faint dwarf galaxies (Willman 1 and Ursa Major I), now known to be the most numerous type of galaxy in the Universe.

Willman is currently the Deputy Director of NOIRLab and the lab’s Project Director for the US Extremely Large Telescope Program. As you know, NOIRLab is the preeminent US national center for ground-based, nighttime optical and infrared astronomy with a ~$100M annual budget supported by ~500 staff members located in Arizona, Hawai’i, and Chile.  Rubin Observatory Operations is part of NOIRLab, along with Gemini Observatory, CTIO/KPNO, and the Community Science and Data Center.

Including her role at NOIRLab, Willman brings 15 years of Rubin/LSST-related leadership experience to the Corporation.  She served as Deputy Director of the Rubin Observatory (then LSST) construction project for three years.  As Rubin Deputy Director, she convened community-based initiatives in support of LSST science and led development of Rubin’s operations plan.  Prior to her management role at Rubin, she chaired an LSST science collaboration and contributed to the original LSST Science Book released in 2009. 

Željko Ivezić, Director of Rubin Observatory, stated: “I am delighted that Beth was appointed to lead LSSTC. All of us at Rubin Observatory are looking forward to working closely with her and the Corporation on further advancement of the LSST science program! Beth’s skills and experience are a perfect match for the job ahead of us.”

Willman earned a BS in Astrophysics from Columbia University and a PhD in Astronomy from the University of Washington, and has held prize fellowships at the NYU Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics and the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard-Smithsonian.  Dr. Willman spent seven years as a faculty member and department chair at Haverford College, during which time she earned multiple teaching awards.

“I am thrilled to be taking on this role at LSSTC during such an exciting time,” said Willman, “I’m energized to bring my passions for LSST science, inclusive access to data and discovery, and program development to lead the Corporation.”

Pat Eliason will overlap with Beth for a few weeks to ensure a smooth transition for the Corporation, and will retire at the end of September. I extend hearty thanks to her for leadership as CEO of the Corporation over the past eight years. At the same time, Dr. Jeno Sokoloski will begin her desired transition from Director of Science to Director of LSSTC’s Catalyst Fellowship and LINCC-related programs. In her new role, she will lead these exciting new initiatives and will partner with Dr. Willman to build on LSSTC’s recent fundraising successes.

Please join me in welcoming Beth to the Corporation and in thanking Pat and Jeno for all their hard work and contributions!

Lucas Macri, Chair, LSSTC Executive Board

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