A bit about Dr. Jeff Hester

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After earning his doctorate in Space Physics and Astronomy from Rice University, Jeff Hester moved west to The California Institute of Technology. There he joined the team responsible for the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field and Planetary Camera. 

So began a career that placed Dr. Hester in a front row seat for some of the most extraordinary events in the history of science. Today the Hubble telescope is known for its spectacular images of the Universe; images of great beauty and scientific significance.  Dr. Hester’s iconic Hubble image, the “Pillars of Creation,” has been featured on a US postage stamp and in 2012 was selected by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential photographs in history.

m16_color_fullfieldThat is not how things started out.  Hubble’s breathtaking images shadow hard realities that came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the promise of the mission forever.   Jeff was there at the beginning, sitting in front of a national audience on live television when the very first images from Hubble were radioed to Earth.  Those images revealed that the telescope, the jewel in the crown of NASA science, was deeply flawed.

You know that you’ve made it when you see your project featured on the big screen – hanging on a wall in a Leslie Neilson movie beside the Hindenburg, the Titanic, and the Edsel. But several years later after serving on the team responsible for Hubble’s repair, Dr. Hester was also one of a small handful of scientists to stand up and announce that the most challenging repair mission ever undertaken was a success.

From left to right WFPC2 team members, Chris Burrows, Jim Fansen, Jeff Hester, Karl Stapelfeldt, and John Clarke standing in front of the Hubble back-up mirror at Hubble's 25th Anniversary celebration at the National Air & Space Museum.

From left to right WFPC2 team members, Chris Burrows, Jim Fansen, Jeff Hester, Karl Stapelfeldt, and John Clarke standing in front of the Hubble back-up mirror at Hubble’s 25th Anniversary celebration at the National Air & Space Museum.

He has lived the realities of working in a fish bowl with the weight of the world on your shoulders.  He also knows the hard work and painful sacrifices needed to bring a project back from the dead. It was high drama and a hell of a ride, with lessons that are relevant to how we all live and work on a daily basis.

In 1991 Dr. Hester joined the faculty of Arizona State University and quickly became one of its most popular and well-respected professors, researchers, and thought-leaders.  An astrophysicist of international reputation, Dr. Hester has published a popular textbook and hundreds of papers on topics including star formation, pulsars, supernova remnants, and the early history of the Solar System. He has appeared in dozens of televised documentaries discussing his work, not to mention a commercial for an Irish hard cider.

Even while building his career as an astrophysicist Dr. Hester found his interests and passions turning more and more beyond the walls of Academia.  Looking beneath the surface of current events he recognized the same all too familiar mistakes playing out over and over. Time and again failure lies not in lack of capability, effort, or resilience, but rather in an inability or refusal to see the world for what it is.

Dr. Jeff Hester entertains audiences with stories from the front lines, and along the way gives them the perspective and tools to take control of their own knowledge.

Dr. Jeff Hester entertains audiences with stories from the front lines, and along the way gives them the perspective and tools to take control of their own knowledge.

After two decades at ASU Dr. Hester chose to take early retirement from his tenured professorship to spread his message to a far wider audience. There are rules for telling the difference between what is real and what is not. In an increasingly volatile and high stakes world those rules matter. Happily they are also among the best ways to uncover new opportunity. Therein lies Dr. Hester’s passion; helping people discover and develop habits of mind that can benefit every field, every professional, and every human being.

Dr. Hester belies the stereotype of a professor with lab coat and pocket protector cloistered away in a basement laboratory. He sometimes jokes that the difference between a physicist and an astrophysicist is that you want the astrophysicist at your cocktail party!  

When not speaking to an audience, coaching a client or challenging some organization to question their assumptions, Jeff might be found SCUBA diving, doing yoga, backpacking in the mountains, or hiking the Arizona desert with camera in hand.  Regardless, he is always looking for new adventures and opportunities to expand his own horizons.

 

 

A bit about Dr. Jeff Hester  © Dr. Jeff Hester
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Reality Straight Up!

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Click on thumbnail to select post:

  • Schools in the Time of COVID  The Decision Will Ultimately Make ItselfPosted in Thoughts
  • COVID-19 Arrives  The Humanitarian Disaster is HerePosted in Thoughts
  • Correctly Predicting Failure  It’s time for scientists to get loudPosted in Thoughts
  • Typhoid Mary on Two Wheels  Spreading COVID one lap at a timePosted in Thoughts
  • Pine Boxes  Invest now, the numbers are going upPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • Scientists Stuck Inside  Curiosity in the Time of COVIDPosted in For Your ConsiderationThoughts
  • After COVID’s First Wave  No getting back to normalPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • COVID-19  Cutting through the confusionPosted in Success & FailureThoughts
  • Great Deceiverism 101  Explanation or Theory? Therein lies the rub.Posted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • One Step at a Time  The  not-so-mysterious origin of lifePosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • The Mind’s Siren Call  Being certain is a primrose pathPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • Constrained Hallucinations  How the brain uses science to perceive the worldPosted in For Your ConsiderationUnreasonable Faith
  • You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. Yes, schools are desperately important to kids. No, COVID-19 doesn’t care, and COVID is making the rules right now. Attempts to open schools this fall will fail of their own accord. The relevant question is how to meet the needs of children, families and the community in the face of that reality.

  • Currently new cases of COVID-19 in Arizona are doubling every 7 days. ICU beds in the state are already full. The rest of the country isn’t that far behind us. You do the math.

  • Now is not the time for scientists to be circumspect and silent. We are on the short end of a battle over whether truth even matters. If scientists do not stand up for what is real, who will?

  • The morning cyclist in my neighborhood may not be standing in the Michigan Statehouse carrying a gun and demanding her right to spread contagion far and wide, but she may as well be.

  • You know those nice charts and graphs that make it look like we are over the hump of COVID-19 and that things are about to get better? Those predictions are dead wrong, with an unfortunate emphasis on “dead.”

  • Imagine three gregarious scientists, each with the gift of the gab, all coping with stay-at-home orders. Of course we started a livestream/podcast talk show! What else would we do? Welcome to the kickoff episode of Scientists Stuck Inside.

  • Even after COVID-19 kills hundreds of thousands in the U.S. over the coming weeks, we will still be almost as vulnerable to the pandemic as we are today. We’d all love to “get back to normal” after that, but the price could be a second wave, worse than the first. Some see us facing either economic Depression or allowing vast numbers of preventable deaths, but that is a fool’s choice. There are better options if we have the will to find them.

  • There is a lot of information about COVID-19 out there, much of it misleading. When looking at the future, start with what the science really says.

  • If someone can’t tell you how they would know that they are wrong, they don’t have a clue whether they are right.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Once seemingly incomprehensible, the origin of life no longer seems such a mystery. Most of what once appeared as roadblocks are turning out to be superhighways.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • Being certain lights up our brains like a junkie’s next hit. Literally. Unfortunately, being certain and being right are two very, very different things.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

  • The unique worlds we each consciously inhabit – the only worlds we will ever experience – are constrained hallucinations, products of hypothesis testing by our predictive brains.

    This article originally appeared in my Astronomy Magazine column, For Your Consideration.

Over his 30 year career as an internationally known astrophysicist, Dr. Jeff Hester was a key member of the team that repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. With one foot always on the frontiers of knowledge, he has been mentor, coach, team leader, award-winning teacher, administrator and speaker, to name a few of the hats he has worn. His Hubble image, the Pillars of Creation, was chosen by Time Magazine as among the 100 most influential photographs in history.
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