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06/01/2011 07:00:00

David Woody Wins the 2011 Thomas W. Schmitt Annual Staff Prize

David Woody, a member of the professional staff and assistant director of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory (OVRO), has been awarded the 2011 Thomas W. Schmitt Annual Staff Prize. The prize recognizes a staff member of the Caltech community whose contributions embody the values and spirit that enable the Institute to achieve excellence in research and education.

Woody has led the instrumentation development effort at OVRO for more than three decades—an internationally recognized effort that has included antenna design and verification, advances in receivers and optics, correlator design, atmospheric phase correction, and control and monitoring. He played a crucial role in completing the original Owens Valley millimeter-wave array, taking over from Professor Bob Leighton to construct the final three antennas. More recently, he masterminded the move of all six antennas to the new high site at Cedar Flat, where they form part of the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA). Moreover, during the past five years, he has helped lead the design and construction at OVRO of the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich Array, whose specific purpose is to search for clusters of galaxies throughout the universe. Beyond that, he has still found time to play important technical advisory roles in the design and construction of both the Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope (CCAT) and the Atacama Large-Millimeter Array in the high desert of northern Chile. And, for the last six years, he has traveled to Uganda to teach mathematics and other subjects through the Kampala-based organization Missionaries of the Poor.

Here are excerpts from the nominator's comments:

"It would be an understatement to say that David Woody . . . has made a significant contribution to the lives of those working here at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory. . . . 'Iconic' is a word that aptly portrays the man, as reflected through his enduring dedication and character."

"As our Assistant Director, Dave's responsibilities at OVRO are vast and, frankly, mind-boggling. On any given day one might see him immersed in the planning of a building remodel, navigating his way through discussions with an upset staff member, talking shop with our onsite vehicle mechanic, working with the machine department lead on a particularly challenging fabrication project, sharing insights with a CARMA guest observer, or engaged in numerous phone conferences with his CARMA . . . or CCAT . . . colleagues. Sprinkle a significant dose of travel throughout each month and one easily gets the impression this is a very busy man!"

"Dave brings a sense of humor to his job and resists taking himself or others too seriously, a characteristic that helps keep us grounded."

"Once on staff at Caltech, he spent time at the prestigious Bell Labs research facility in New Jersey working with Thom Phillips to develop the SIS mixer technology that is now the preferred technique for coherent millimeter and submillimeter detection at observatories around the world. The first application of this in radio astronomy was at Caltech's Millimeter Array in the Owens Valley of California."

"As a manager, Dave inspires staff to pursue independent research and professional development. His presence serves as a buffer between observatory operations and higher-level project concerns, which contributes greatly to positive staff motivation and morale."

About the Prize


All staff members are eligible for this award, and are nominated by a member of the Caltech community. A committee of six faculty and staff members makes the final selection based on the following criteria. The selected staff member should

•    enjoy uncommon trust and respect among her or his peers,
•    directly or indirectly support the Institute's research and teaching mission in a singularly effective, professional, and passionate manner, and
•    engender a spirit of enthusiasm about Caltech and its values among everyone with whom he or she interacts, both on campus and off.

Former Associate Vice President for Human Resources Tom Schmitt created the annual staff prize shortly after he arrived at Caltech in 1997. Financial support for the prize is provided by Ted Jenkins, an alumnus and trustee. He was president of the Alumni Association from 2001 to 2002 and served as the president of the Caltech Associates in 2004–2005.

Written by Marcus Woo