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Robert N. Shelton Selected as President of Giant Magellan Telescope

Announcement Partners & Leadership
January 24, 2017

Prominent Physicist and Academic Leader to Join Historic Project

PASADENA, CA — January 24, 2017 — The GMTO Corporation (GMTO) today announced the appointment of physicist Robert N. Shelton, PhD, to the position of President, effective February 20, 2017. Dr. Shelton will lead the organization behind the development of the 25.4 meter Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) which is poised to be the world’s largest astronomical telescope when it comes online early in the next decade. Dr. Shelton will work closely with the GMTO Board of Directors, the leadership at the partner institutions, and the GMT team to complete construction of the observatory.

“Expert leadership is critical to transforming the GMT from a bold vision into a world leading research facility,” said Walter E. Massey, Ph.D, Chair of the GMTO Board of Directors and Chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Dr. Shelton brings the skills and experience that we need at this critical time in the development of the GMT. The GMTO Board looks forward to working with Robert on this exciting project”.

The GMT will enable breakthrough science ranging from studies of the first stars and galaxies in the Universe to the exploration of planets around other stars. The project is being developed by an international consortium of universities and research institutions in the US, Australia, Brazil, and Korea. The telescope will be located at the Las Campanas Observatory high in the Andes mountains of northern Chile. Dark skies, a dry climate and smooth airflow make Las Campanas one of the world’s premier astronomical observing sites. Construction is underway at the observatory site in Chile and the giant mirrors that are at the heart of the telescope are being polished at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory at the University of Arizona.

“The GMT will be an incredible asset to the future of scientific discovery and our understanding of the Universe,” said Robert N. Shelton, PhD, President, GMTO. “I am delighted to join the organization behind this historic project and look forward to working with the Board and our partner institutions to ensure the successful completion of the telescope.”

Shelton joins GMTO from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement where he has been president since March 2014 and leads the vision and direction of America’s first foundation dedicated solely to funding science. Dr. Shelton has been the executive director of the Arizona Sports Foundation, the 19th president of the University of Arizona, and provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, among many other notable leadership and academic positions at renowned public research universities. He also brings experience as a distinguished experimental condensed-matter physicist focusing on collective electron effects in novel materials, reaching more than 240 refereed publications, 50 invited talks and 100 contributed papers at professional meetings.

Comments on the News

Astronomer and Nobel Laureate, Dr. Brian Schmidt, Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University said, “Dr. Shelton is highly respected in the astronomical community through his service on the boards of numerous observatories and scientific institutions, and was also president of my alma mater. The ANU and Astronomy Australia Limited look forward to working with Dr. Shelton in his new role at GMTO.”

“The GMT will be a ground-breaking scientific tool for discovery, and I look forward to Robert Shelton’s experienced leadership in making it a reality,” said Harvard University President Drew Faust.


The GMTO Corporation (GMTO) manages the GMT project on behalf of its international partners: Astronomy Australia Ltd., The Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, The University of Texas at Austin, University of Arizona, and University of Chicago.


Article Corrections — Instances of “Giant Magellan Telescope Organization” have been revised to “GMTO Corporation.” Instances of “24.5 meter” in reference to the diameter of Giant Magellan Telescope have been revised to “25.4 meter.”

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