One of U of T’s outstanding astronomical researchers has not only been appointed chair of a world-leading astrophysical department — he’s also had a giant interplanetary rock named after him.
University Professor Scott Tremaine of the Departments of Astronomy and Physics and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics has accepted a post at Princeton University in New Jersey. Tremaine will join that university’s astrophysical sciences department in the 1997-98 academic year. In the fall of 1998 he will become chair of the department.
Last week the renowned Canadian scientist said his decision to leave U of T had been a difficult one and had come only after Princeton, where Tremaine earned his PhD in 1975, had courted him over 18 months.
“I’ve been here for 12 years, 11 of those as director of CITA and I’m leaving after a period of time at the university which I think has been absolutely great for my career,” he said. “I’ve had a wonderful time and I am delighted with the development of CITA over the past decade and the unswerving support I’ve received from the university and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.”
However, he added, the opportunity to have new challenges and to be in an interesting new environment eventually proved irresistible.
The news of Tremaine’s departure comes on the heels of his receiving two very prestigious honours. The Canadian Institute of Advanced Research announced earlier this month that the International Astronomical Union has named an asteroid for Tremaine. Discovered in 1981 by a Massachussetts Institute of Technology astronomer, Asteroid 3806 is now known as Asteroid Tremaine. The union cited the researcher’s “seminal contributions to solar system and galactic dynamics” in awarding him the honour.
Tremaine has also received the 1997 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics “for diverse and insightful applications of dynamics to planets, rings, comets, galaxies and the universe.” Administered jointly by the American Institute of Physics and the American Astronomical Society, this major international prize in astrophysics is to be awarded formally next January at the AAS’s 190th annual meeting.
One of the world’s leading thinkers in astronomy and astrophysics, Tremaine’s work probes the configuration of the solar system. In 1986 his theory that Uranus had more moons than commonly believed was confirmed by the Voyager Two satellite that flew by the planet.
Tremaine will continue his association with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research — he is the CIAR Imasco Fellow and director of the institute’s cosmology and gravity program, a position he will continue to hold and which will allow him, he said, to keep his Canadian connections.
Professor Heather Munroe-Blum, vice-president (research and international relations), called Tremaine’s departure “a real blow to the university.” Peter Munsche, assistant vice-president (technology transfer), said U of T has valued Tremaine’s work here very highly.
The winner of many prizes and honours including a Steacie prize, a Killam fellowship and a Rutherford Memorial Medal, Tremaine is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London.