Learn more about the Columbia professor who oversaw NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

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Gregory Robinson, who has taught at Columbia since 2020, served as the telescope’s program director from 2018 to 2022, overseeing its construction and launch.

If you’re looking for an expert to teach a course called “Leading Large, Complex Projects,” you probably couldn’t choose a better person for the job than Gregory Robinson, who from 2018 until July this year holding the position of program director. of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a billion-dollar successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that employed more than 1,000 people in 17 countries and took about 20 years to build. Luckily for Columbia students, Robinson is teaching this course at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies this fall.

Robinson, an engineer who joined NASA in 1989 and began teaching at Columbia in 2020, took over as director of the Webb Telescope in 2018, after years of stumbling blocks derailed the project. At first, Robinson was reluctant to join the project, The New York Times reported in a recent filing, as he felt he had taken on major projects he hoped to lead at NASA. But in the end, he was convinced and under his leadership the project saw the light of day. Webb is officially launched into space on Christmas Day 2021.

This spring, Robinson was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2022 and this week he was named an Associate Employee of the Year. state of the year.

Columbia News sat down with Robinson this month to discuss the Webb Telescope and his future plans. This interview has been edited and condensed.

NASA stunned the world when in July, it released the first images from the telescope – views of outer space as crystal-clear as ever. Not long after NASA released these images, Robinson announced he was leaving the space agency. In a press release announcing his retirement, John Mather, Nobel Laureate and Webb Project Principal Scientist, praised Robinson for his work on Webb: “Greg helped propel the team forward. The international James Webb Space Telescope crosses the finish line thanks to his calm technical approach.. and human challenges, leading to a complete and magnificent success.

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