NuSTAR Team: Key Players
Fiona Harrison - Principal Investigator - Caltech
Fiona Harrison grew up in Boulder, Colorado and attended Dartmouth College, graduating Magna Cum Laude with an A.B. degree in physics. She received a Ph.D. in physics from U.C. Berkeley. As a graduate student, she designed a balloon-borne coded mask experiment for imaging hard X-ray sources. She then spent two years as a Robert A. Millikan Prize Fellow in Physics at Caltech, and in early 1996 she joined the faculty there as an Assistant Professor, and was promoted to Professor of Physics and Astronomy in 2005.
Harrison has combined experimental and observational work in high energy astrophysics. In 1996 she began developing instrumentation for focusing high energy X-rays, and successfully proposed to NASA to build the balloon-borne High Energy Focusing Telescope (HEFT). HEFT was a collaborative effort between Caltech, Columbia, the Danish Technical University Space Center, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Based on the successful development of HEFT technologies, she and the HEFT team, along with JPL, proposed to NASA's Small Explorer Program to build the first on-orbit focusing telescope, NuSTAR. Besides her instrument development work, Harrison has also published numerous papers on black holes, neutron stars, and gamma-ray bursts. She received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Clinton in 2000, and was named one of America's Best Leaders by U.S. News and the Kennedy School of Government in 2008. She is married to Richard Sander, who is on the faculty of UCLA Law School, and has a step son, Robert, and a daughter, Joanna.
Daniel Stern - Project Scientist - JPL
Daniel Stern grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York and attended Princeton University, graduating with an A.B. degree in physics. After graduation, he spent a year as a DAAD Scholar studying at the Ludwig Maximillian University in Munich, Germany and working at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. He received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley where his research in observational cosmology and galaxy formation made heavy use of the then recently commissioned Keck Observatory. While in graduate school, Stern's research group confirmed the first object at redshift z>5, corresponding to approximately 1 billion years after the Big Bang.
Stern's research interests are broad, ranging from theoretical work on the observational signatures of a topologically closed (toroidal) universe, to observations of galaxies, black holes, supernovae and brown dwarfs. His work makes heavy use of optical/near-infrared observatories such as Keck, Palomar, Kitt Peak, Gemini and the Hubble Space Telescope; infrared facilities such as the Spitzer Space Telescope; X-ray facilities such as the Chandra X-ray Observatory; and radio facilities such as the Very Large Array. A recurring theme in Stern's work has been the confirmation of the most distant examples of various classes of astronomical sources, such as galaxies, quasars, radio galaxies, galaxy clusters, supernovae and brown dwarfs. Such work, literally extending the frontiers of human knowledge, teaches us about the conditions of the Universe shortly after the Big Bang and the early phases of galaxy evolution. A second theme in his work has been studying hidden black holes, heavily obscured in the centers of distant, active galaxies. Such work will be greatly benefitted by NuSTAR, for which Stern is the Project Scientist. Stern is married to Cynthia Stockhammer, who is a TV producer at ABC Media Productions, and they have two children, Asher and Eden. When life was less hectic, Stern was an active oil painter. Lately, his medium of choice is crayons.
Grace Baird - Spacecraft Bus Chief Engineer - OSC
Grace Baird graduated with an M.S. from Stanford University in Aeronautics/Astronautics in 1991, then started that Autumn at Orbital Sciences Corporation. Since then she has completed four spacecraft programs successfully at Orbital from design through operations. Before becoming a systems engineer, she was an attitude control engineer. Science missions are her favorite - NuSTAR will be her third. She looks forward to seeing NuSTAR through on-orbit checkout and successful return of science.
Manfred Bester - Mission Operations Manager - SSL
Manfred Bester received a doctorate in physics from the University of Cologne, Germany with thesis work in millimeter wave spectroscopy and radio astronomy. In 1986 he joined the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at U.C. Berkeley where he worked with Charles Townes, conducting mid-infrared interferometric observations of stellar diameters and dust shells around evolved stars. From 1989 to 1997 he also served as Director of the Infrared Spatial Interferometer, located at Mount Wilson Observatory. In 1998 he established the Mission and Science Operations Center and the Berkeley Ground Station to initially support the NASA FAST and RHESSI Small Explorer missions. In his current position as Director of Operations he oversaw on-orbit operations of eight NASA funded spacecraft – FAST, RHESSI, CHIPS and the five-spacecraft THEMIS constellation. As THEMIS Mission Operations Manager he led the post-launch commissioning, navigation and science operations activities, and presently oversees operations for the extended THEMIS mission involving transfer of two of the five spacecraft from Earth to lunar orbits. In 2008 he was named Mission Operations Manager for NuSTAR.
Manfred Bester’s current areas of professional interest include mission analysis, multi-mission ground systems, process automation, space communications and operations, flight dynamics, software development and systems engineering. He is a member of AIAA, AGU, AAS, ASP, OSA and SPIE, a session organizer at the IEEE Aerospace Conference and a co-chair of the SPIE Space Exploration Technologies and Missions Conference.
Steven Boggs - Co-Investigator - UC-Berkeley
Steven Boggs grew up in Peoria, Illinois and Harlan, Kentucky. He attended the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. degree in physics. He received his Ph.D. in physics from U.C. Berkeley, where he led two Antarctic campaigns of a balloon-borne gamma-ray experiment design to study gamma-ray spectra of high energy astrophysical source. Boggs became a Millikan Prize Fellow in Physics at Caltech in 1998 (working with Harrison), before returning to Berkeley as an Assistant Professor of Physics in 2000, promoted to Associate Professor in 2006.
Boggs' primary field of research is in the design of gamma-ray telescopes, primarily for the detailed study of radioactive nuclei produce deep in the inner regions of supernova explosions. He worked on the High Energy Focusing Telescope (HEFT) as a postdoc at Caltech, and has since led the development of the Nuclear Compton Telescope (NCT), a balloon-borne gamma-ray imaging instrument. Boggs has also published many papers on novel gamma-ray observations of neutron stars, and gamma-ray bursts. He lives with his partner David Wood, an aspiring writer of fiction, and their two children, Carlos and Joanna. When not sampling Berkeley's many cuisines and microbreweries, Boggs likes to work off his guilt by practicing bikram yoga.
Finn Christensen - Optics Coatings Lead - DTU Space
Finn E. Christensen grew up on a small rural island in Denmark and currently lives north of Copenhagen. He received his Ph.D in 1981 on synchrotron radiation studies of second order phase transitions. In 1984 he joined the Danish Space Resarch Institute - now DTU Space. He has been employed there since, with the exception of visting scientist positions at the Harvard Smtihsonian Center For Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusettes and the Caltech Space Radiation Laboratory in Pasadena, California working with Fiona Harrison and her group. His early work in space science involved the design, testing and calibration of two flight instruments - a high throughput X-ray telescope and a high resolution crystal spectrometer for a joint Russian - Danish project. When this project ended he starting started work on designing hard X-ray telescopes using artificial layered structures to reflect X-rays up to 100 keV. This work got him in contact with Fiona Harrison's group at Caltech and led to a collaboration on the High Energy Focusing Telescope (HEFT) balloon mission where DTU Space established a state-of-the-art facility that was used for coating all of the HEFT mirrors and is currently being used to coat all of the NuSTAR mirrors. In parallel with this, Christensen has been strongly involved in the definition and development of the International X-Ray Observatory, a joint NASA/ESA/JAXA mission, where he is a member of the Telescope Working Group. He has published numerous papers on the development, testing and calibration of X-ray optics. He has a daughter, Emilie, who is a communications specialist. In his spare time he rides his two horses and tries to exercise one crazy Australian cattle dog.
Bill Craig - Instrument Manager - UC-Berkeley
Bill Craig received his B.A and M.S. degrees from U.C. Berkeley in physics. He also received a Ph.D. in astrophysics from U.C. Berkeley in 1994. He has over 15 years of experience in astrophysical instrumentation and research, working with both optical and detector systems. He has worked on numerous space missions including XMM-Newton, CHIPS, and GLAST as well as a number of balloon-borne instruments. Currently he is with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Space Sciences Lab at UC Berkeley. Bill is the Instrument Manager and Instrument Systems Engineer for NuSTAR.
Lynn Cominsky - E/PO Lead - Sonoma State
Lynn Cominsky grew up in the snows of Buffalo, New York, and attended college at Brandeis University where she studied Chemistry and Physics. After graduating from college, she worked at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics analyzing data from the first X-ray astronomy satellite, Uhuru. When she found out that she could get paid for studying black holes, she went to graduate sschool in physics at MIT, and after getting her Ph.D. there in 1981, she moved to California. She has been on the faculty at Sonoma State University (SSU) for over 20 years, where she is now Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, as well as the director and founder of SSU's NASA-funded Education and Public Outreach Group. This group supports NuSTAR, as well as NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Swift, and XMM-Newton missions.
Highlights of Dr. Cominsky's research career include the discovery of pulsations from the first X-ray transient shown to be in a binary system, the discovery of eclipses from an X-ray burst source, which revealed the first precise orbital period for a low mass X-ray binary, and the discovery of X-ray emission from the only radio pulsar in a binary orbit with a Be star.
When not sitting in front of computers, Cominsky and her husband, who is also a physicist, can be found sitting on top of horses. They and their three horses live at the Little H-bar Ranch, in beautiful Sonoma county, along with four cats and one dog.
Suzanne Dodd - Project Manager (Operations Phase) - JPL
Dodd is a native of Gig Harbor, Washington. She graduated with a BA in math from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., and a BS in mechanical engineering from Caltech. She also holds a MS in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.
Her career started at JPL in 1984 on the Voyager Uranus and Neptune flybys. After leaving Voyager in October 1989, Dodd worked on the Mars Observer and Cassini missions developing and managing their mission operations systems. She left JPL in 1999 to work at Caltech’s Spitzer Science Center, which plans observations and processes data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and, later, the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, which archives infrared astronomy data from many sources. Dodd eventually managed both those centers. In 2010, she returned to JPL as the Spitzer project manager and subsequently also was appointed Voyager project manager. She is excited about being the Phase E project manager for NuStar.
Dodd is the recipient of two NASA Exceptional Service awards. She is married with two college aged daughters. She is an avid masters swimmer and enjoys participating in many aquatic sports with her family.
Karl Forster - Science Operations Center Manager - JPL
Karl Forster was born in Seattle, Washington and grew up in London, UK. He attended the University of Leicester where he was awarded an honors degree in Physics with Astrophysics. While working in the technical departments of theatres around the midlands he studied part time at the University of Hertfordshire, gaining a Masters degree in Astronomy and Astronautics in 1992. He then emigrated back to the United States to attend Columbia University in New York, receiving a Ph.D. in Astronomy in 1998. After two years as a post-doctoral scholar at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he moved to southern California and was a staff scientist at the California Institute of Technology working as team lead for GALEX science operations for which he received a NASA exceptional public service medal in 2008. Karl joined the NuSTAR team in 2011 as manager of the NuSTAR Science Operations Center. He enjoys the California lifestyle and watching his children growing up in the sun, surf, and sand.
Chuck Hailey - Optics Lead - Columbia
Chuck Hailey attended Cornell University and Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D. in physics. He spent 10 years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In 1995 he returned to Columbia University, where he is the Pupin Professor of Physics and Co-Director of the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory. Hailey’s research interests are manifold. He worked in the 1980s on atomic physics. Drifting back to astrophysics in the early 1990s he was the US Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator for the Reflection Grating Array on the XMM-Newton Observatory. He also worked on imaging hard X-ray telescopes for ballooning. In the late 1990s and early 2000s his research group at Columbia developed the thermally-slumped glass approach to optics fabrication along with the precision mounting technologies for the glass, which were successfully employed on the HEFT balloon experiment, and are being implemented on NuSTAR. In addition, he conducted observational research on neutron stars and on supernova remnants. He is also PI of the GAPS dark matter experiment. He is married to a doctor, Patty, who keeps him firmly rooted in reality by constantly reminding him that what he does has no life and death consequences. He has a daughter Brianna, who graduated from Columbia and is studying psychology, and a son Connor, in high school. For fun he loves going to New York City theater, art museums and restaurants with Patty, pretends to talk knowledgably about neuroscience with Brianna and watches Connor play soccer for one of the best club teams in the country.
Vicky Kaspi - Galactic Science Team Lead - McGill
Vicky Kaspi got her B.Sc. from McGill University in Montreal where she also grew up. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1994 on radio pulsar timing, including work on millisecond pulsar timing for gravitational wave detection. She then held a Hubble Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and in 1997 moved to MIT as an Assistant Professor. In 2000 she returned to her native Montreal to join the faculty of McGill University, where today she holds a Canada Research Chair and the Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology. She was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2010, and as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Royal Society of London in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Research achievements she, her students and her postdocs have enjoyed include the first detection of spin-orbit coupling in a binary pulsar, discovery of X-ray bursts and glitches in anomalous X-ray pulsars, discovery of the fastest known spinning pulsar, discovery of a pulsar/magnetar transition object, and discovery of the first eccentric binary millisecond pulsar known in the Galaxy. Currently she also is Chair of the Executive Committee of the PALFA Pulsar Search Consortium which uses Arecibo to search the Galactic Plane for radio pulsars. She lives in Montreal with her cardiologist husband David Langleben and their 3 children, Ian, Julia and Hayley and is a frustrated Montreal Canadiens fan.
Yunjin Kim - Project Manager (Development Phase) - JPL
Yunjin Kim grew up in Seoul, Korea and has spent the last 28 years in California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987. From 1987 to 1989 he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Since 1989 he has been with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. Currently Yunjin Kim is the NuSTAR Project Manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Even though Yunjin Kim manages an astrophysics project, his research interests are radar polarimetry and interferometry, radar system engineering, soil moisture algorithm development, radar system engineering, and advanced radar technology development. He has published numerous research papers and book chapters in radar remote sensing. Yunjin Kim loves various sports. His favorite sports teams are the LA Dodgers, LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Eagles.
Dave Oberg - Spacecraft Bus Program Manager - OSC
Dave Oberg joined Orbital 15 years ago and has worked on the SeaStar, SORCE, and AIM programs before NuSTAR. He’s had the opportunity to work two of them from the beginning to end, and is looking forward to doing the same with NuSTAR. Several challenges are encountered over the course of a program, but the feeling of accomplishment and seeing it work on orbit makes it all worthwhile.
Oberg grew up in Minnesota and has spent the last 20 years in the northern Virginia area, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. Most free time is spent with family doing activities such as roller blading around the neighborhood, geocaching, and coaching his daughter’s soccer team. Go Chippewa!
Jason Willis - Project Systems Engineer - JPL
Jason Willis grew up in Newberg, Oregon and from there went to the University of Colorado, Boulder where he received B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aerospace Engineering Science. While at University of Colorade he was involved in the flight of the ESCAPE II and DATA-CHASER shuttle payloads built by the Colorado Space Grant College. In 1998 Willis joined the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a Spacecraft Systems Engineer on several projects leading up to his involvement in the Mars Exploration Rover project. He worked as a systems engineer on many aspects of the Rover project, focusing on the Entry Descent and Landing Systems and was the Flight Director for both of the Rover landings and one of several flight directors during surface operations. Following completion of the nominal Mars Exploration Rover mission, Willis moved on to become the lead systems engineer for an internal avionics and flight software development effort. In addition to this effort, he was also briefly involved in the Deep Impact mission. In December of 2007 Willis was named as the Project Systems Engineer for the NuSTAR mission. When he is not bounding across the country supporting NuSTAR, Willis enjoys canyoneering, hiking and skiing.
Will Zhang - Goddard Optics Lead - GSFC
Will Zhang obtained his Ph.D. working on the Kamikande-II experiment detecting astrophysical neutrinos. He then went to Los Alamos to build air shower arrays to detect ultra-high energy gamma rays. After two years at Los Alamos, he decided to work on the signal-rich X-ray astrophysics and moved to Goddard Space Flight Center to become a key member of the team of scientists that built the proportional counter array for the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). After the launch of RXTE on the last day of 1995, Zhang spent several years studying X-ray binaries for their fast timing signatures. XTE is now in its fourteenth year of continuous operation. Zhang’s interest then shifted to building X-ray optics. He has been developing lightweight and high resolution X-ray optics ever since. Zhang is now the Lead Scientist responsible for the development of mirror technology for the International X-ray Observatory.