Lamont Weekly Report, February 13, 2011

In the 1966 sci-fi classic "Fantastic Voyage," an intrepid team of tiny scientists entered a comatose colleague's body via his bloodstream to search for and destroy a blood clot in his brain. I've spent the last week in meetings here and on Morningside begin carried along in the University's circulatory system trying to understand its neurology. There are some clots, but not as many as one would think. And while it's not quite up to the level of a fantastic voyage, it's been enlightening and helpful.

I spent additional time this week working on our input to the federal budget process, on the Langseth business systems review, on external relations and development, and on the basic day-to-day processes that keep this place going. I attended my first meeting of the Dean's Council, which is one way the Provost has of communicating to the different units. You may remember that the University has set up a task force to examine benefits, mainly in reaction to the continuing upward pressure on health care costs. No surprise here. The task force will be reporting out some of its findings this spring.

As I sign off on your agency proposals for the February 15 deadline, I am continually reminded of the wide range of science being done here. Believe me: I know that getting a proposal out the door sometimes can seem like trench warfare, but the process has the laudable goal of making sure nothing stands between you and the agencies but your
science. The results speak for themselves: each of the divisions is doing well above the national average for acceptance rates. I'll share some of these numbers with you at a later date.

Some of you have mentioned - in your usual, level-headed way - that travel policies and reimbursement processes should be re-examined. I'll take this up in a few weeks with administration. As my time in this chair passes, my laptop seems to be getting heavier. I prefer to believe that it's not my ageing joints, but the step function in email filling up my computer's memory with more and more bytes.

Next week, I will spend Monday and Tuesday participating in an NSF site review. On Wednesday, we will have the first meeting of the Observatory Management Group (OMG!) since I took over. This group, which meets twice monthly, conducts the initial review of issues that, ultimately, may require discussion by our executive committee. You should feel free to suggest agenda items to your associate director.

Finally, under the category of "if he didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all," I had a double blowout on the West Side Highway last Sunday evening. I was a passenger this time, but it was the same car as last week. The tires were brand new. I have renamed my car, "Christine."