Gary Sanders To Oversee Design and Development of TMT
    Contributed by David Beckett

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Gary Sanders
Gary Sanders

In April, LIGO's longtime Project Manager and Deputy Director, Gary Sanders, resigned his position at the laboratory to assume responsibility as Project Manager for the "TMT," the Thirty-Meter-Telescope, presently in its design and development phase. Sanders, who had been with LIGO since 1994, was the first person recruited to the project by LIGO Director, Barry Barish, when Barish became LIGO's Principal Investigator that year.

About his departing colleague, Barish said, "Gary Sanders has been a very strong pillar around which we have built LIGO and developed the strong organization we now have. He is the rare combination of a first-rate scientist, an exceptional manager and someone who radiates a positive spirit."

Prior to his work on LIGO, Sanders had been Project Manager and Department Head for the GEM Detector of the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. Sanders said it was the "scientific vision" of LIGO that chiefly drew him to the project. "I fell in love instantly with the science of LIGO, that's why I came."

"I feel very privileged," Sanders said of his work on the project. "I don't think any scientist has the right to expect something as good as the chance to work on LIGO, and I have been very lucky."

The Thirty-Meter-Telescope, to which Sanders will now bring his skills, is planned as a combined optical and infrared telescope, 30 meters in diameter, which would result in images more than 12 times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope and have nine times the light-gathering ability of one of the 10-meter Keck Telescopes, which are currently the largest in the world. Astrophysicists hope to use the TMT to study the earliest galaxies and the details of their formation, as well as to pinpoint the processes which lead to young planetary systems around nearby stars.

"The opportunity to work on this new generation telescope was one I couldn't pass up," Sanders said. "It's a challenge that just looked right for me. I learned a lot at LIGO, and I would be very happy if I could repeat those experiences here on the TMT."

The TMT Project is a collaborative effort between Caltech and the University of California.

Stepping into the role of LIGO Deputy Director is laboratory veteran Stan Whitcomb, head of the Detector Support Group, whom Barish described as "one of the most talented and respected scientists in LIGO." Whitcomb said he looked forward to working with everyone in his new position, and that exciting times lay ahead for LIGO.

"Gary's departure is a true loss for LIGO," said Whitcomb, "but he has left behind a strong organization capable of carrying out this scientific mission."

Citing such factors as the unprecedented sensitivity of LIGO's initial detectors, the approach of longer and more sensitive science runs, the development of data analysis tools to fully unfold acquired data, and the building momentum of Advanced LIGO, Whitcomb expressed firm optimism in the future progress of LIGO.

"I am confident we are on the threshold of making gravitational-wave astronomy a reality," he said.