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Local Astronomer Chosen to Lead University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy

April 12, 2021, 10:20 AM HST
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Veteran local astronomer Doug Simons was chosen as the next director of the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA).

Simons will step into the new role effective effect Sept. 1, 2021, subject to the formal posting on the agenda of the UH Board of Regents’ April 15 meeting. IfA is an internationally recognized research institute and one of the largest university astronomy programs in the world with observatories on Maunakea on Hawaiʻi Island and Haleakalā on Maui.

Simons has worked on Maunakea since 1990 after he earned his PhD from IfA and has served as the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope executive director since 2012 and was the Gemini Observatory director from 2006–11.

“Returning to the IfA, where I received a fabulous education, brings me full circle. It is an honor to be chosen to lead an institution so well established globally in astronomical research, education and technology innovation,” Simons said. “Among my goals is to broaden IfA’s impact outside of astronomy, creating a department that is an example worldwide of the potential arising from collaborative efforts between science and culture, each being enriched in ways we do not currently imagine.”

Beyond his academic and research credentials, including an extensive background in telescope instrument development, Simons has been a leader in community engagement and astronomy education on Hawaiʻi Island and throughout the state. He led the establishment of the Maunakea Scholars program, an only-in-Hawaiʻi collaboration, where public high school students can apply for observing time across the Maunakea Observatories for their own independent research proposals and be mentored by IfA graduate students.

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“Doug Simons is the leader IfA needs as Hawaiʻi navigates through a pivotal period for the future of astronomy,” said UH President David Lassner, who approves the appointment recommended by Provost Michael Bruno. “Doug is highly accomplished and respected as a leader in the astronomy community and he has proven his commitment to honest and consistent community and educational outreach.”

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Simons also helped found A Hua He Inoa, a program where Hawaiian speaking students and educators work with language experts and Hawaiʻi-based astronomers to create names in ‘ōlelo Hawai’i for astronomical discoveries made in Hawaiʻi.

Additionally, Simons assisted in developing EnVision Maunakea, a community-based initiative to gather a wide range of perspectives on the future of Maunakea and the Maunakea Fund, which advances scientific, cultural and environmental programs that represent vital interest areas for the shared future of Maunakea. Simons’ community service also includes serving on the volunteer Maunakea Management Board, Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce and Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

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