SIRTF Profiles: Michael Werner
SIRTF Project Scientist
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
I have been working on SIRTF since 1977 and have been Project Scientist since 1984. As Project Scientist, I am responsible for seeing that SIRTF's scientific objectives are clearly defined and that SIRTF's scientific performance will achieve those objectives. I advise the Project Manager on issues related to science - and on other issues as well - and I chair the SIRTF Science Working Group. The Science Working Group consists of thirteen scientists, including myself. The SIRTF scientists work very closely and productively with the SIRTF engineering and management staff, and this teaming has been very important in getting SIRTF to the brink of launch.
Most of the observations on SIRTF will be carried out by scientists selected from the world-wide scientific community, but the Science Working Group has been awarded 15-to-20% of the observing time. I will use my observing time to study the infrared properties of x-ray emitting galaxies, dust in the interstellar medium, and material around stars which may signal the formation of planets.
I grew up in Chicago and went to school at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. At Haverford I met a wonderful astronomy professor, Louis Green, who inspired me, and many other undergraduates at this small liberal arts college, to pursue careers in astronomy. I went to graduate school at Cornell University, where I did my PhD thesis under the guidance of Martin Harwit, who was one of the pioneers in space infrared astronomy. Martin's influence on our field can be seen from the fact that four of the thirteen members of the SIRTF Science Working Group are Cornell alumni.
I have been fortunate to work with many other outstanding mentors, including Charles Townes at Berkeley and Gerry Neugebauer at Caltech. On of my hopes through my work on SIRTF is to provide the same kind of guidance and support to young scientists which I was fortunate to receive early in my career.