Resident Astronomer [1996-1999]

Instrument Support

I arrived on the Big Island with my family on Friday the 13th of September 1996 to be the next French Resident Astronomer replacing Christian Vanderriest who was completing his three years term taking care of MOS (the Multi-Object Spectrograph) a much used instrument back then, for which he had developed the Argus mode (an Integral Field Unit). I inherited his duties and therefore took care of MOS and its many users, actually a treat as the instrument was efficient, very reliable, and used for exciting projects. Also under my responsibility was Redeye, a (badly!) aging near-infrared camera, which was definitely at the end of its life...

MegaCam/MegaPrime Project Management

As I was ready to take on more responsibilities after a first year of adjusting to a new place and a much slower pace than the one I had left at Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, I offered in early 1998 my services to the MegaCam project.
In those days, CFHT was offering UH8K at its prime focus as a wide-field camera and CFH12K, a new 12-CCD mosaic, was still in construction. MegaCam was to be a new prime-focus upper-end with a wide-field camera (built in France by CEA) to come on the sky in the early 2000s. I became the Project Manager and Project Scientist of what I decided to call MegaPrime, the whole new environment prime-focus environment to host MegaCam. MegaPrime was to keep me busy for many years...

Senior Resident Astronomer [1999-2003]

When Pierre Couturier left CFHT after nearly six years of directorship, he was replaced by Greg Fahlman. Dennis Crabtree, who was Senior Resident Astronomer under Pierre, left and I replaced him, becoming the head of the Astronomy group. Dennis had started to implement a Queued Service Observing mode concept, a project that Pierre Martin, one of the Canadian Resident Astronomers, managed after him with much success.

The CFHT Legacy Survey (CFHTLS)

In parallel with the development of MegaPrime, a large observing program, the CFHT Legacy Survey (CFHTLS) had to be developed for at least 6 weeks per year as one of the conditions given by CEA to CFHT for offering the camera (except for its detectors and filters) to the observatory. A group (the CFHTLS working group) was assembled to define which kind of "survey" could be defined. I chaired the working group for the years it took to consult the communities, discuss with the Scientific Advisory Committee, and finally propose an acceptable survey to the CFHT Board. We were very ambitious at the beginning, proposing up to 1000 nights... but we ended up with 500 nights over 5 years for what is so far the largest program ever undertaken at CFHT. Once MegaPrime/MegaCam was on the sky, we formed a CFHTLS Steering Group (SG) to monitor the execution of the CFHTLS observations and its data processing, a group I chaired up to my nomination as Executive Director.

Executive Director [2003- 2012]

After the decision made by Greg Fahlman to return to Canada to become the Director of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in the fall of 2003, in the first year of his second term as CFHT Executive Director (ED), the position of Interim ED was offered to me. The CFHT Board then decided to open the search for an ED to French and Canadian astronomers, a first in the history of the observatory. I applied for the position, which was subsequently offered to me, and started as Executive Director on May 1st, 2003 for a first term of three years. I have been renewed twice, ending on April 30, 2012 nine very rewarding years of directorship.

CFHT: a service provider

The raison d'être of the observatory is to provide its users with astronomical observations as close as possible to what they request, in a timely fashion and in a format they can use with the least processing work, so that they can focus on the scientific issues they want to tackle. In that sense, from advertising its capabilities, following instructions from potential users, interacting with them during the acquisition of the observations, packaging the data, up to final delivery and the post-sales services, the observatory follows the philosophy and practices of many service providers in the business world. The only difference is that CFHT does not make any profit, though an analogue to profit can be measured in term of program completion rate, number of scientific publications based on CFHT observations or their impact in the astronomical world compared to other telescopes.

This "business" model can also be extended to many aspects of the relationship between CFHT and the communities it serves. As a company, if you want to keep your customers, you better make them happy. If you want to attract more of them, you make sure you have a good reputation, you add new capabilities which the communities want (new instruments), and you explore new markets (for CFHT, it means new communities beyond Canada, France and Hawaii).

To maintain a top quality in the products you deliver, you keep a top-notch staff, which is actually the most precious asset of the observatory. As even the best engineers can get bored by the maintenance of the equipment, even if it is state-of-the-art, you make sure to keep a healthy level of technical innovation going on at the observatory, even if it does not benefit directly the users (it does indirectly as it maintains the highly skilled staff required for a flawless operation of the observatory).

Finally, as Director, you make serving your staff and your customers your top priority. A challenging work? Sure, but a very rewarding one too. I liked it very much.!

Back to science... [2012 -]

At the end of my third and last term as Executive Director, I have been given the opportunity to stay at the Observatory and refocus on my interests with the intent of ensuring that my continuing career will be productive and rewarding. This is an opportunity for which I am very grateful!