Joseph Miller steps down as director of UC Observatories/Lick Observatory after 14 years at the helm

Joseph S. Miller has resigned as director of the University of California Observatories/Lick Observatory (UCO/Lick), a position he held for 14 years. Miller will return to full-time teaching and research at UC Santa Cruz, where he is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics.

Michael Bolte, also a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UCSC, will serve as interim director of UCO/Lick while an international search is under way to appoint a new permanent director.

UCO/Lick, headquartered on the UCSC campus, operates the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton and is a managing partner of the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Lick Observatory, founded in 1888, was the first major mountaintop observatory and continues to be an important research site.

When Miller became director of UCO/Lick in 1991, the Keck Observatory was just a contruction project and Lick was the only UC observatory. By 1993, the 10-meter Keck I Telescope was operational, and in 1996 it was joined by the twin Keck II Telescope. They remain the world's largest optical and infrared telescopes, and they have enabled the research of UC astronomers to flourish at an unprecedented level.

"It has been a very eventful time," Miller said. "This job would have been impossible without the tremendous support of the excellent scientists and technical staff who make this one of the premier observatories in the world."

UCO/Lick astronomers are now working with partner institutions on plans for a giant 30-meter telescope. The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) project is currently in the design phase, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through separate $17.5 million grants to UC and the California Institute of Technology.

"In his first ten years as director, Joe Miller led UC astronomy into the Keck Observatory era and to the very forefront of astronomical research. In the last four years, his vision for the future has been to have UC play a leadership role in designing, building, and using the first of the next generation of extremely large telescopes. The Thirty-Meter Telescope is the realization of that vision, and this project is progressing rapidly on all design fronts," said Bolte, who cochairs the TMT science advisory committee.

UCO/Lick has been in the forefront of developments in adaptive optics, the revolutionary technology for removing the blurring effects of the atmosphere from astronomical images. The world's first laser guide star for routine adaptive optics observations was implemented on the 3-meter Shane Telescope at Lick Observatory.

In 1999, UCO/Lick astronomers led the successful effort to establish the Center for Adaptive Optics (CfAO), a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center headquartered at UCSC. And in 2002, a $9 million grant from the Moore Foundation enabled UCO/Lick to establish the Laboratory for Adaptive Optics at UCSC.

Also during Miller's tenure, three major instruments for the Keck Telescopes were designed and built at the UCO/Lick Technical Laboratories at UCSC: the High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES), the Echelle Spectrometer and Imager (ESI), and the Deep Extragalactic Imaging Multi-Object Spectrograph (DEIMOS).

"These instruments have led to many important discoveries," Miller said. "They are arguably as successful as any instruments on any large telescope in the world."

Miller, who joined the UCSC faculty in 1967, holds the Henry Bachmann Endowed Chair for Astronomical Instrumentation. His research interests include quasars and active galactic nuclei, focusing on their relationships with the surrounding environment and the nature of their host galaxies.

Miller was named director of UCO/Lick in 1991. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994 and served as chair of the AURA Coordinating Council of Observatory Research Directors from 1997 to 1999. He earned his B.A. in astronomy and physics from UCLA and his M.S. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin.