The Second Century Initiative’s Return on Investment:
Stuart Jefferies: Astronomy
Note from the Editor:
When Georgia State University started the Second Century Initiative – predecessor to the Next Generation Program – the institution sought to bring the best and brightest researchers and scholars to raise Georgia State’s profile and reputation for innovative interdisciplinary research and scholarship.
After five rounds of the program, the return-on-investment for 2CI faculty hiring has paid great dividends in scholarship and research. An important part of this is the opportunity for collaborations between faculty members inside the university – and collaborations outside the university.
When faculty members from different fields collaborate, new possibilities for research and scholarship arise. Thanks to 2CI, these new possibilities translated into work addressing problems facing society while boosting discovery.
This series will examine how individual 2CI faculty members have made a difference in research and scholarship at Georgia State through opportunities for collaboration – examples of how the initiative continues to be one of the university’s greatest investments for the future.
Images of Collaboration and Discovery
When you visit the office of Dr. Stuart Jefferies at Georgia State and ask about his work, and the collaborations he has helped to bring and build at the university, you’d better be prepared to listen very carefully.
He’ll eagerly – and rapidly – recount past, current and future collaborations that are in the works.
Dr. Jefferies’ work has taken him around the world in efforts to better understand space, the sun and to improve imaging technology. As a 2CI faculty member, he joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy under the initiative’s second round, joining fellow 2CI hires Drs. Petrus Martens and Rafal Angryk as they started the Astroinformatics cluster.
Dr. Jefferies’ longtime collaborative work at the South Pole led to the start of a South Pole Solar Observatory in 2016 with Georgia State working alongside NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Rome Tor Vergata, the University of Hawaii and the European Space Agency, and with the support of the National Science Foundation.
The observatory stands with other world-class resources supported by Georgia State and colleague institutions, including Georgia State’s Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) Array at Mount Wilson, Calif.
And thanks to his prior work at the University of Hawaii (UH), Georgia State’s faculty and astronomy students have access to UH’s Haleakala Observatory, an astrophysical complex where astronomers can view the universe under some of the clearest sky conditions for Earth-based telescopes, at the same rates as for UH personnel.
Dr. Jefferies has worked with the United States Air Force during his career to develop new methods for high-resolution imaging. At Georgia State, he is also pursuing new Air Force research opportunities in collaboration with Dr. Fabien Baron, Assistant Professor of Astronomy, who has worked with the CHARA Array, and Dr. Daniel Pimentel-Alarcón, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science who works with machine learning, signal processing and other elements of data science.
Before he was officially brought on as a new member of the university faculty, Dr. Jefferies said he found multiple things about the 2CI initiative and the university itself that were forward-thinking.
“The idea that the university would put forward to fill many faculty positions at a senior level represents a huge commitment,” he said.
What else helped him in his decision to join Georgia State?
He asked about the university’s views on entrepreneurship – how Georgia State’s administration viewed faculty who wished to form startups and spinoff companies based off their research.
“What I was expecting to hear was, ‘well, those are great ideas, Stuart, we’d like to get together and chat about that,’” he recalled. “No, I didn’t hear that – I was just told, ‘do it.’
I really like that philosophy here,” he said.
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