OST Scientist Network & ASciNA Activities

bridges vol. 22, July 2009 / News from the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad

The OST network of Austrian scientists & scholars abroad was established by the Office of Science & Technology (OST) at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC, and focuses on the outreach of government-related agencies to Austrian scientists in North America. Its main objective has been to support the scientific community with information and specific advice wherever necessary and requested.

Encouraged by the OST, an independent association - ASciNA (AustrianScientists and Scholars in North America) - was founded in 2002 with local chapters being established throughout the US and Canada. For further information about ASciNA please visit: www.ascina.at

Austrian Scientist Helmut Jenkner Gives Presentation on Hubble Space Telescope

Dr. Helmut Jenkner

Helmut Jenkner , deputy head of the Hubble Mission Office at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), gave a lecture hosted by the Embassy of Austria in cooperation with the American-Austrian Cultural Society. Jenkner's presentation outlined the history of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) from the first idea to Servicing Mission 4 (SM4) this past May, during which astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis completed the upgrades on the telescope during five space walks. Jenkner, on assignment from the European Space Agency, is generally responsible for maximizing the science return from Hubble, and most recently for coordinating the STScI activities leading up to the servicing mission.

On May 11, Jenkner was present at the launch of Atlantis from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For him, it was the first space shuttle launch he had attended - and it will probably also be the last. Currently, there are no plans for other missions to upgrade or repair Hubble after SM4 and the telescope will be allowed to degrade.

With the revitalizations made during SM4, Hubble is expected to carry on its mission until at least 2014.  "It's wonderful," said Jenkner to bridges, explaining the excitement of watching the launch three miles away - the closest you can

The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery

get to the launch site. "It's so immediately gripping. At the same time, you feel for your astronaut colleagues because you're frightened for them. There's no doubt about it - it's dangerous. On the other hand, the launch signals the culmination of what we have been preparing for seven years since the last servicing mission."

The Atlantis crew returned safely from Hubble on May 24, after their 13-day mission. The Hubble project has not been without its difficulties and setbacks, yet with all the challenges it faced, Hubble has produced some of the most iconic science results and images of space that the world has ever seen: the "Crab Nebula ," the "Pillars of Creation ," and the "Sombrero Galaxy ."  Although the last servicing mission is over, Jenkner's work with Hubble is not yet finished: Currently Jenkner and his colleagues are going through the three-month program, Servicing Mission Observatory Verification (SMOV), that is the gradual testing and calibration of HST's instruments to make sure everything is in order for the continuation of the telescope's science program. With its new and repaired instruments Hubble will now be at the peak of its capabilities.

Once Hubble degrades to a point where it stops functioning, it will be taken out of orbit. "One of the things that was put on the telescope during SM4 was a fixture on the back end of it called a soft capture mechanism that will allow a small spacecraft to attach to the telescope to take it out of orbit safely," said Jenkner. "To prevent the telescope from falling out of orbit in an uncontrolled way and landing on someone, it will be brought down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where it can fall safely into the water." Current planning suggests that Hubble's return to Earth will not occur until the 2020s.

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Launch of Pilot: ASciNA Mentoring Program

ASciNA has launched a pilot Mentoring Program that is now open for applications. This program seeks to develop a mentoring framework in which established Austrian scientists/scholars and professionals provide guidance, experience, and wisdom to early career researchers from Austria.

The pilot is currently open to mentoring pairs located either on the east coast (Boston, New York) or the west coast (San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles). In addition, ASciNA is collaborating with brainpower austria to support three long-distance mentoring pairs. Upon successful completion of the 12-month pilot phase, a North America-wide mentoring program will be implemented.

Just one week into the program, the mentor pool already covers a broad range of areas from computer science, neuroscience, and cancer, to social sciences and the finance industry. Mentors are entrepreneurs, holding positions in academia as well as in companies.

For further information about the program please visit: www.ascina.at

News from ASciNA Chapters

ASciNA Chapter Greater Washington, DC

"Austrian Scientist of the Year 2008" Prof. Fatima Ferreira Lecture.

The ASciNA Greater Washington, DC Chapter closed its academic year 2008/2009 with a talk by Dr. Traudl Robinson, who gave an overview of her work on the development of the mammary gland. "Austrian Scientist of the Year 2008" Prof. Fatima Ferreira , allergist from the University of Salzburg, came to Washington to give a talk at the Embassy of Austria. During her stay in Washington, she also came to NIH where she visited the lab of Dr. Susanne Diesner, currently a Ph.D. student at the Medical University of Vienna, who spent three months at the National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) to study models of allergic reactions. After 7 ASciNA-talks and the "ASciNA Exkursion" to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in the past year, we now take a break until the fall, but invite all friends, colleagues and their families to our traditional ASciNA-BBQ on August 1, 2009, which will be held in Silver Spring, MD. For BBQ-details (i.e., directions, what to bring...) please email to greater.dc(at)ascina.at

ASciNA Greater Boston

A new executive committee for the Greater Boston Chapter of ASciNA was elected at the monthly meeting in May. The new chapter head is Werner Olipitz; Franz Kainz and Philipp Staber serve as chapter deputies.

During the first half of 2009, ASciNA Boston has continued its monthly meetings with outstanding presentations and lively interdisciplinary discussions on urban planning (Drs. Lorenz Potocnik & Siegfried Atteneder, MIT), novel chemotherapeutics (Dr. Michael Reithofer, MIT), epigenetics (Dr. Stefan Kubicek, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT), biofuel technology (Dr. Franz Hartner, MIT), rocket science (Dr. Patrick Wikus, MIT), and lymphoma development (Dr. Philipp Staber, Harvard Medical School). As usual, the scientific presentations were followed by social gatherings in pubs of Cambridge and Boston.

The next event is the traditional Sommerfest, with a delicious potluck menu, on July 25.