November 14, 2012

Pierre Cox Appointed as New ALMA Director

The ALMA Board announced that Pierre Cox has been appointed as the next Director of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Cox will take up duty on 1 April 2013, for a period of five years, at the end of Thijs de Graauw's term as ALMA Director. Thijs de Graauw, who has been the ALMA Director since 2008, has taken the observatory past many milestones in his five-year term, including the start of its science observations, in 2011.

Pierre Cox
Pierre Cox

Cox has been the Director of IRAM (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimetrique) since 2006. IRAM operates the Plateau de Bure Interferometer (PdBI) near Grenoble, France, and its 30-meter telescope on Pico Veleta, Spain -- both telescopes observing at millimeter-wavelengths -- on behalf of its three partners: the German Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPG), the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Spanish Instituto Geografico Nacional (IGN).

Pierre Cox is well known scientifically in the area of millimeter and infrared observations of star-forming regions, evolved stars and high-redshift galaxies, and has published more than 200 papers with more than 10,000 citations in total. As IRAM Director, he is responsible for a staff of more than 120 scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative personnel. He has put great personal effort into improving relations with the local communities near the PdBI. As Director, he also has raised the scientific standards of IRAM, by opening up the facilities to the wider community beyond the IRAM partners, including to the United States, and to large programs with a high scientific impact. As a result, the PdBI and IRAM 30-meter telescope are currently very heavily oversubscribed, demonstrating the strong demand for these facilities. To his role as the new ALMA Director, Cox therefore brings his great experience in dealing with a complex multinational organization, as well as a multinational user community. Cox is fluent in many languages, including Spanish.

Cox also is already familiar with ALMA and its organization, as one of the founding ALMA Scientific Advisory Committee and European Scientific Advisory Committee members, who supported and promoted the project, both with scientists and funding agencies, in the late 1990s. Since then, he has stayed in close contact with ALMA through various committees. In 2007, he chaired the review committee of the ALMA operations plan. IRAM is responsible for building the ALMA Band 7 receivers and also hosts one of the European ALMA Regional Center nodes. Several IRAM staff members have played key roles in ALMA commissioning and science verification activities.

The Chair of the ALMA Board, Professor Laurent Vigroux, expressed his satisfaction with the choice, saying, "Pierre Cox is an excellent choice for ALMA Director. He has the wide-ranging experience, necessary skills, and good knowledge of the observatory to lead ALMA into its next phase -- that of full operations. We look forward to working with him as this revolutionary telescope reaches its full potential."

National Radio Astronomy Observatory Director Anthony Beasley said, "We're pleased to see Pierre Cox take the helm of ALMA and lead its transition from construction and commissioning to full scientific operation."

Ethan Schreier, President of Associated Universities, Inc., said "Pierre Cox brings an excellent background to this position, and we look forward to working with him in the coming years. We also want to thank Thijs de Graauw for his efforts in bringing ALMA near to its completion."

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

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