Lamont Weekly Report, December 14, 2012

    For many of us, the return from the AGU Fall Meeting and the end of fall semester classes remind us that another calendar year is drawing quickly to a close, a perception that no doubt fueled the pace of a particularly full week.
    On Wednesday, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences announced that their Sara Langer Book Prize has been awarded to Jesse Farmer. This prize, awarded on the basis of a vote among the DEES graduate students, acknowledges outstanding contributions to graduate student life in the department and at Lamont. Our congratulations go to Jesse for this recognition, as do our thanks for his efforts that led to the award.
   Also on Wednesday, the Lamont Strategic Planning Committee, co-chaired by Robin Bell and Maureen Raymo, held its first meeting. The discussion focused on how best to make use of the recently completed strategic plans of DEES and the Observatory’s research divisions and how to engage at an early planning stage the ideas and participation of the full Lamont community. The committee will meet again early in the new year, and a town-hall-style meeting is planned for late January or early February.
   At the Council of Deans meeting on Thursday morning, discussion topics included updates on current searches to fill five open dean positions and to expand the diversity of Columbia University faculty, and on the protection of the educational records of students and alumni with high public profiles. A Working Group on Faculty Retirement has completed a draft report on the university’s retirement policies that addresses the issues of retirement savings plans, housing policies, retirement planning, retirement incentive programs, and post-retirement opportunities for continued involvement with university activities.
    Later that morning I met with James Neal, Columbia’s Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian, and Damon Jaggars, Associate University Librarian for Collections and Services. We discussed changes in the character and requirements of university libraries generally, and ideas for how the library on the Lamont Campus might be updated to improve user access to digital and online resources.
    At midday, I visited the American Museum of Natural History for a lunchtime meeting with Michael Novacek, Senior Vice President and Provost of Science; John Flynn, Dean of the Richard Gilder Graduate School; Ro Kinzler, Senior Director of Science Education; and curators from the Division of Physical Sciences (Denton Ebel, George Harlow, Ed Mathez, Mordecai Mac Low, and Jim Webster) and the Division of Paleontology (Neil Landman, John Maisey, Jin Meng, and Mark Norell). Our discussion ranged widely over past and ongoing cooperation between Lamont and the Museum in the areas of instrumentation and graduate education, as well as opportunities to strengthen and expand our collaborative efforts in the future. We agreed to hold a meeting of representatives of the scientific staff of the two institutions early next year to explore such opportunities further.
    On Thursday afternoon, the Lamont community celebrated the contributions to the Observatory of Dick Greco, Kathy Carlsen, and Paula Kolacia, each of whom will retire at the end of the calendar year. Dick, our Manager of Facilities; Kathy, our Human Relations Coordinator; and Paula, one of our Accounts Payable Assistants, have collectively devoted more than 75 years of service to Lamont in support of its scientific and educational missions. A large gathering of colleagues and friends joined Dick, Kathy, and Paula for a reception in the Monell lobby to thank them and wish them well on their next endeavors. We trust that all three will remain members of the extended Lamont family and will return often to visit.
    Today, Pat O’Reilly, Kathy Callahan, Art Lerner-Lam, and I met with Joe Mannino and Karri Rivera of Columbia’s Capital Project Management office to kick off planning for the renovation of laboratory and office space on the first floor of the New Core Laboratory. Selection of the architect for the work is imminent, and the scientists who will be the users and managers of the new laboratories will shortly be tasked with the development of detailed specifications for the renovated space. The programming phase of the project must be completed before the end of February so that the detailed design phase can commence by the beginning of March.
    Two divisional holiday parties today signal that we will soon be afforded time to spend with families and friends. But one more busy week is in store for most of us.