Miles Gehm, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Miles Gehm, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Center for Adaptive Optics is a Science and Technology Center that was funded for 10 years by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and is now funded by the University of California Santa Cruz. Its mission is to advance and disseminate the technology of adaptive optics (AO) in service to science, health care, industry, and education. Its goal is to lead the revolution in AO by developing and demonstrating the technology, creating major improvements in AO systems, and catalyzing advances nationwide. The CfAO runs the annual AO Summer School and Fall Retreat. Since the retirement of the CfAO’s long-time director, Prof. Claire Max, in 2022, the CfAO has been led by Prof. Rebecca Jensen-Clem.

The CfAO implemented a highly successful education program to teach our graduate students methods of inquiry-based science teaching, and to apply this knowledge in programs that attract and retain a new generation of scientists, particularly among women and underrepresented minorities. This education program now resides in the Institute for Scientist and Engineer Educators at the University of California Observatories, which serves graduate students throughout the science and engineering fields. The Akamai Workforce Initiative, a partnership between the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy, UCSC’s CfAO and ISEE, and Maui Community College, runs education and internship programs in Hawaii. The CfAO is building on UC’s strong leadership in AO by connecting UC campuses, by fostering research collaborations across disciplines, and by developing the next generation of young leaders in this field.

The Center brings together UC astronomers and vision scientists, today’s primary users of AO, with UC engineers and technologists who design and construct these systems. A hardware-based outgrowth of the center, the Laboratory for Adaptive Optics within UC Observatories, was established through a $9 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This state-of-the-art laboratory explores new AO techniques, develops and tests new components, and provides training for our students and postdocs.