Press Release

AURA Appoints Ken Sembach as STScI Director

By SpaceRef Editor
October 30, 2015
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Dr. Kenneth R. Sembach has been appointed director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore.

STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) under contract with NASA to conduct the science program of the Hubble Space Telescope and to develop the Science and Mission Operations Center for the James Webb Space Telescope. The Institute also operates the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes for NASA. Sembach succeeds Dr. Matt Mountain, who had served as STScI director since 2005. In announcing the appointment, AURA President Dr. Matt Mountain remarked, “Ken Sembach has built a remarkable career in space science, particularly with the Hubble Space Telescope, and is exactly the right person to lead the Space Telescope Science Institute today.”

Dr. John Grunsfeld, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, added, “Ken is a recognized and respected leader at the Institute; his experience will be invaluable in continuing Hubble’s success, and in commissioning the James Webb Space Telescope, enabling the science community to unravel the mysteries of the universe.”

Sembach has been deeply involved in the scientific, operational, and managerial aspects of the Hubble Space Telescope for the past 15 years. He has served as interim deputy director, Hubble mission head, and Hubble project scientist. Previously, Sembach was the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) deputy project scientist for Large Science Programs from 1996 to 2001 at the Johns Hopkins University. He also was a NASA Hubble Fellow from 1992 to 1995 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sembach received a B.A. in physics with honors in 1988 from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in astronomy in 1992 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In accepting the position, Sembach said, “I am delighted to serve the Institute and AURA in this new role. I look forward to keeping STScI at the forefront of astrophysics and enabling revolutionary science for NASA and the nation in the coming years.”

He has a longstanding scientific interest in the physical properties of the intergalactic medium, the interactions between galaxies, and the origin and evolution of the chemical elements over cosmic time. Sembach has formulated and led several NASA concept studies for future space telescopes and enabling technologies, and currently serves as the chair of NASA’s Cosmic Origins Program Analysis Group.

In 2010 he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for his work on the 2009 Hubble servicing mission. Sembach is a member of the NASA Advisory Council Astrophysics Subcommittee and has published 170 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Sembach grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois, where he developed a love for astronomy at an early age when he picked up a field guide to the stars, which ignited his lifelong interest in space. Sembach and his wife, Dr. Marguerite Hoyt, have been married for 24 years.

SpaceRef staff editor.