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Meet Your Professor: Chris Impey

Dr. Chris Impey

Interview with Dr. Chris Impey

It’s Dr. Chris Impey’s job as an astronomer to understand our place in the universe and this work that has taken him around the world in search of an answer. Here at the University of Arizona, he works alongside students who he believes will take science and research to the next level.

Quick Facts

Associate Dean, College of Science

Distinguished Professor of Astronomy

Where is home?

I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and grew up in New York and London, moving frequently and attending ten schools. I went to college in London and Edinburgh, came to Arizona in 1986 for my first faculty job in the Department of Astronomy, and have been here ever since. Along the way I’ve lived in Hawaii and California and traveled extensively, visiting more than 60 countries.

What do you especially like about your job?

Teaching and working with smart students. Whether in the classroom or doing research, youth is the source of energy and new ideas in science. I get to work with students at all levels, from first semester first-year students to graduate students completing their Ph.Ds. Universities give faculty a lot of intellectual freedom to follow their curiosity, which is what fuels research.

When you are not working, what do you like to do?

I like to hike and run in the wilderness. Southern Arizona has great trails and canyons and high mountains, so even in the summer you can recreate, though it means getting up at 5am in high summer. There is wildlife to see if you get away from the city and into the mountains. Few cities are like Tucson for being able to quickly be remote and far from other people.

What about you would most surprise your students?

My office. It's a repository of artifacts and objects from my travels and work. There are fossils, religious icons, items of plastic food, works of art, and a lot of astronomical trinkets. When students first see it, they need a while to take it all in.

How do you sustain a passion for your work?

My job is to get up every day and figure out how the universe works. How could that not be the best job in the world? Astronomy involves the biggest questions about our place in the universe, and many are not yet answered so there is plenty of research still to do. I get to use large telescopes around Arizona, but also in Chile and Hawaii. Astronomy is a small field, so I get to make many connections around the world.

What advice would you give a first-year Wildcat?

Even if you think you know what you want to do in life, take a while to explore new topics and classes that intrigue you. Changes of direction can be fruitful. Get to know your professors and you will find them a good resource for more than just academic advising. Don’t neglect sleep and try to keep good eating habits. Enjoy the rich intellectual environment of a major research university.

Want to untangle the world’s most perplexing riddles, solve its most urgent problems? Backed up by the support and resources of an elite research university, Arizona Wildcats take up those challenges every day. Find answers to your biggest questions here. Become a Wildcat.



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