Pierre Cox Appointed as New ALMA Director

14 November 2012

The ALMA Board announced today, 14 November 2012, that Pierre Cox has been appointed as the next Director of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. Cox will take up duty on 1 April 2013, for a period of five years, at the end of Thijs de Graauw’s term as ALMA Director. Thijs de Graauw, who has been the ALMA Director since 2008, has taken the observatory past many milestones in his five-year term, including the start of its science observations, in 2011 (see eso1137).

Cox has been the Director of IRAM (Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique) since 2006. IRAM operates the Plateau de Bure Interferometer (PdBI) near Grenoble, France, and its 30-metre telescope on Pico Veleta, Spain — both telescopes observing at millimetre-wavelengths — on behalf of its three partners: the German Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPG), the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and the Spanish Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN).

Pierre Cox is well known scientifically in the area of millimetre and infrared observations of star-forming regions, evolved stars and high-redshift galaxies, and has published over 200 papers with more than 10 000 citations in total. As IRAM Director, he is responsible for a staff of more than 120 scientists, engineers, technicians and administrative personnel. He has put great personal effort into improving relations with the local communities near the PdBI. As Director, he has also raised the scientific standards of IRAM, by opening up the facilities to the wider community beyond the IRAM partners, including to the United States, and to large programmes with a high scientific impact. As a result, the PdBI and IRAM 30-metre telescope are currently very heavily oversubscribed, demonstrating the strong demand for these facilities. To his role as the new ALMA Director, Cox therefore brings his great experience in dealing with a complex multinational organisation, as well as a multinational user community. Cox speaks many languages, including Spanish.

Cox is also already familiar with ALMA and its organisation, as one of the founding ALMA Scientific Advisory Committee and European Scientific Advisory Committee members, who supported and promoted the project both with scientists and funding agencies in the late 1990s. Since then he has stayed in close contact with ALMA through various committees. In 2007, he chaired the review committee of the ALMA operations plan. IRAM is responsible for building the ALMA Band 7 receivers (delivered on time and well within specifications) and also hosts one of the European ALMA Regional Centre nodes. Several IRAM staff members have played key roles in ALMA commissioning and science verification activities.

The Chair of the ALMA Board, Professor Laurent Vigroux, expressed his satisfaction with the choice, saying, “Pierre Cox is an excellent choice for ALMA Director. He has the wide-ranging experience, necessary skills, and good knowledge of the observatory to lead ALMA into its next phase: that of full operations. We look forward to working with him as this revolutionary telescope reaches its full potential.”

The Director General of ESO, Professor Tim de Zeeuw, said: “I am extremely pleased with the selection of Pierre Cox as the next ALMA Director. He is the right person to build on the excellent work done by Thijs de Graauw in bringing ALMA construction and commissioning close to completion, and to lead the observatory to exploit its transformational scientific potential.“

More Information

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.


Douglas Pierce-Price
Public Information Officer, ESO
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6759

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