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Kathryn Flanagan: Hubble and JWST inspire the scientist in everyone

The 25th anniversary of the Hubble's launch prompts some reflection on science projects that capture the imagination of the public.

18 June 2015, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201506.03

Kathryn Flanagan is the Interim Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI, Baltimore, MD). The 500-person institute is responsible for the science operations of Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the future mission and science operations of its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018.

Prior to assuming her current position in March 2015, Flanagan served as STScI's Deputy Director since 2012. She is also a Senior Scientist at STScI. She came to the Institute in 2007 to head the Mission Office for the James Webb Space Telescope. In that capacity, she was responsible for the development of the Science and Operations Center at STScI for this NASA mission.

She earned her BS and PhD in Physics at MIT, where she began working in the field of x-ray astronomy, with special interest in supernova remnants and the development of new instruments in space. She became part of the science research staff at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and MIT, and has worked on flight instruments for the Einstein Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and future x-ray missions. She has been active in education, first as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching math and physics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and later as Director for Education and Public Outreach for MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. She has participated in NASA's advisory structure; co-chaired strategic planning documents and served on the Astrophysics Subcommittee. She also participated in the National Academy of Sciences Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey Astro2010.

Flanagan chaired the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes + Instrumentation symposium in 2010 and 2012, and has chaired several SPIE conferences on gamma-ray instrumentation for astronomy. She has also been an author of more than 35 SPIE papers over the last 25 years. She was interviewed for SPIE Newsroom at STScI during the week of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of Hubble's launch (April 2015).