SIRTF Profiles: Thomas L. Roellig
I wear two hats in the SIRTF community, neither of which can be seen in the accompanying photo. I have served as co-investigator on the Infrared Spectrograph (IRS), one of the three SIRTF science instruments, since 1983. In this role I have helped direct the development of the instrument hardware, especially the electronics and software. I am also leading the IRS team that will investigate the nature and evolution of brown dwarfs, a type of low-mass "failed star" that is very dim and is thought to be very common in the universe, although they are exceeding difficult to see. I have also served as SIRTF Facility Scientist since 1996. As Facility Scientist my job is to work closely with the engineers that are designing and building SIRTF, helping to ensure that the final product will realize the greatest science investigation capabilities.
I was always interested in science and while growing up oscillated between a planned career as an astronomer or an oceanographer. I made my final choice after spending a summer on an oceanographic research ship in the Arctic Ocean in 1974 – when I realized that I liked working at telescopes more than on ships. After getting a bachelors degree in physics from Stanford University in 1975 I went on to graduate work in astronomy at Cornell University, where I met my thesis advisor, Professor James Houck, who is also now the Principal Investigator of the IRS instrument. Following the receipt of my Ph.D., I joined Mike Werner's group at NASA Ames Research Center. I did not however join Mike in following SIRTF from Ames to JPL when the project moved in 1990 and am still located up in the San Francisco Bay Area.