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Spring 2003
Why UCLA?
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Her work with the Keck I — the world’s largest optical and infrared telescope — has led to remarkable discoveries, including her demonstration of the existence of a monstrous black hole some 24,000 light years away at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, with a mass 2.6 million times that of our sun. While Ghez’s initial findings four years ago were greeted with skepticism by some astronomers, the evidence supporting her conclusions has been substantially strengthened by recent discoveries, Ghez reported in February at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “The case for the supermassive black hole was strong before, and we have substantially improved it,” she says. “Now it’s a 99.99-percent certainty. We can rule out every alternative that has been proposed.”

It is a facility like Keck, which is co-owned by the University of California and Caltech, that makes such discoveries possible, she says. “The Keck Observatory is the best facility in the world for infrared astronomy. It allows us to do experiments that no one else can do. UCLA has made itself the leader in infrared astronomy at Keck.”

In addition to the value she places on the facilities available to her, Ghez likewise values her faculty colleagues in UCLA’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“The department has thought very strategically about how to hire,” she says. “UCLA is also very good about treating young faculty well, and giving them a strong voice in the future of the department. A lot of people in this department have had other offers, and they have chosen to stay. That tells you that something is right here.”

— Stuart Wolpert ’81

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