Curiosity Expert: Dr. Gerard van Belle
Astronomer, Lowell Observatory
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Dr. van Belle began working on astronomical optical interferometers with his graduate work in the mid 1990s on the IOTA interferometer on Mt. Hopkins near Tucson, Ariz. Upon completion of his PhD at the University of Wyoming in 1996, he joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as an instrument architect for the Keck Interferometer, expanding his portfolio to include work with the largest telescopes in the world, located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. At JPL he also made scientific use of the Palomar Testbed Interferometer and published extensively on stellar radii and temperatures, and made the first-ever direct measures of non-spherical stellar shapes. In 2002 he transferred to Caltech, where he continued work on PTI and also contributed to the CHARA Array commissioning, while administering the NASA Keck time and the Michelson Fellowship program. From 2007 until 2011 he was with the European Southern Observatory in Munich, Germany, working as the Instrument Scientist for PRIMA, an advanced dual-star combiner undergoing commissioning for the 1.8m and 8.2m apertures of the VLTI, located on Cerro Paranal in Chile. In August of 2011 he moved back to the United States to take a position at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., where he is working on the Navy Optical Interferometer.