By Andrea Pyka
In an effort to maintain his high standard of astronomical goals, Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal and former Astronomy and Astrophysics professor at UC Santa Cruz, named his longtime colleague Michael Bolte as the new director of UC Observatories/Lick Observatory (UCO/Lick).
UCO/Lick is affiliated with all 10 UC campuses, but the headquarters are located at UC Santa Cruz.
"I think UC/Lick Observatories has been a jewel in the crown of UCSC since the campus opened," Blumenthal told City on a Hill Press (CHP) via e-mail. Blumenthal worked alongside Bolte as a professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at UCSC prior to becoming Acting Chancellor. "It is one of the most productive multi-campus research institutes in the entire UC system," he said.
Blumenthal believes Bolte will help keep all astronomers in the UC system engaged in pursuing collective department goals.
"Bolte has the vision to conceptualize the future of astronomy at the University of California and he has the personal leadership skills to make that a reality," Blumenthal said.
The Lick Observatory, established in 1888, is one of the first major mountaintop observatories, and is located on Mt. Hamilton in San Jose.
Bolte said that the Mt. Hamilton observatory has suffered tremendously from budget cuts and hopes to gain funding to update the facilities and computer electronics.
"Because Lick Observatory has one of the smallest and oldest telescopes, it has taken a brunt from the budget crunches," Bolte said. "I want to breathe a little new life into Mt. Hamilton starting with bringing it about 10 years forward."
Before becoming director, Bolte worked with the former director, Joseph Miller, on several projects including the development of the 10-meter Keck II Telescope, one of the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes located at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. Bolte was also a part of the creation process of the three-meter Shane Telescope at Lick Observatory.
Miller, who retired after 14 years as director to devote his full time to teaching, explained the role of the observatory director.
"The director looks after the operation of the [UCO/LICK] unit and provides the astronomers with the facilities they need to do research," Miller said.
Miller has stepped down from his job as director with confidence, knowing that Bolte will bring new ideas and positive changes.
"One of my jobs is to step into the background, but it’s good to have a new director on a regular basis with new and fresh ideas," Miller said. "Bolte is a first-rate astronomer who has good understanding for instrumentation and gets along well with people."
Bolte is currently working on getting funding to create a 30-meter telescope which will be the first of a new generation of giant ground-based telescopes.
"We are in the middle of a $65 million study to develop the first of what is called an extremely large 30-meter telescope," Bolte said. "We are pushing really hard so that we create the next generation of a new kind of telescope."
Sandra Faber, a professor of Astrophysics at UCSC, feels that Bolte will bring a great deal of experience to his new position.
"He has excellent judgment and he brings a huge amount of vision to his job," Faber said. "As a former interim director, he approached his job aggressively and imaginatively."
Faber hopes that Bolte will use this ambition to help make new changes to current facilities on the UCSC campus.
"Our facilities are becoming out of date and we need to acquire resources for new space and new equipment in the laboratories," Faber said. "Bolte is helping to move this forward."
Aside from future changes, for now, Bolte is aiming on visiting all of the UC campuses in order to reach out to the communities.
"One of my goals is to spend a significant amount of time at each of the campuses, telling people what’s going on," Bolte said. "I want to better utilize smart people out there."