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SIRTF Profiles: Dr. Michael D. Bicay

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This is a thermal infrared image of Pequeña, a gray tabby cat that I rescued from a radar enclosure at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico in 1986. Since that time, "PQ" has followed me from the Caribbean to the San Francisco Bay Area to southern California to Washington, DC and back to Pasadena, California. I currently manage the Office of Science, Education and Public Outreach at the SIRTF Science Center (SSC) at the California Institute of Technology.

I spent three years in Puerto Rico conducting research for my Ph.D. degree in Applied Physics conferred by Stanford University in 1987. Detecting the neutral hydrogen emission line from many hundreds of galaxies allowed me to map the large-scale distribution of galaxies in a large region centered on the Cancer cluster, and to study the effects of the intergalactic environment on gas content within spiral galaxies. My first visit to Pasadena was a two-week visit to NASA's Infrared Processing and Analysis Center to collect and analyze infrared data from the IRAS satellite. This effort spurred other investigations, including the infrared properties of cluster galaxies, the spatial distribution of thermal IR and non-thermal radio continuum emission within galaxies, and to cosmic-ray propagation and modeling within spiral galaxies.

In 1990, I accepted an appointment as a Visiting Senior Scientist in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, a nominal two-year appointment. I ended up staying for six years in Washington, during which time I also served as a consultant to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. At HQ, I served as Program Scientist for many long-wavelength missions and payloads. Considerable effort was also expended on management of various R&A programs, and on scientific advocacy, within NASA and to the external community.

Upon my return to California in 1996 I joined the SIRTF Project Office at JPL, before transferring to my present position upon the establishment of the SSC shortly thereafter.

I have a variety of roles in the development of SIRTF, partly borne out of my previous managerial experiences at NASA HQ. In the area of science outreach and community support, I manage external interfaces to the community by organizing science conferences and sessions at meetings of professional astronomers. I develop the solicitations for SIRTF research proposals issued by the SSC and organize the peer review of submitted proposals. I have been intimately involved in planning and advocacy of the innovative SIRTF Legacy Science Program since the early 1990s.

My interest in education and public outreach (EPO) was stimulated by my time at the Smithsonian. I developed the long-range strategy for SIRTF EPO three years ago, and am pleased that our small (but talented) team is starting to be recognized for its innovative products and Web sites. Over the coming year, I intend to devote more attention towards the development of an effective SIRTF public affairs program.

Although I have now been associated with SIRTF for a decade, in one form or another, my greatest admiration goes to those who have been working for twice that long to make this "Great Observatory" a reality. You will get to meet some of these people in future installments of SIRTF Profiles.

NOTE: In September 2001, Dr. Bicay was named SSC Assistant Director for Community and Public Affairs.

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