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					                                              Department of Physics & Astronomy
                                              State University of New York at Stony Brook
                                              Stony Brook, New York 11794-3800
                                              Paul Grannis, Chair (631) 632-8067
                                              FAX (631) 632-8176
State University of New York at Stony Brook

                                                               November 22, 2004

To:          Promotion and Tenure Committee, College of Arts and Sciences
From:        Paul Grannis
Subject: Promotion of Aaron Evans

On November 19, 2004, the tenured faculty of the Department of Physics and
Astronomy reviewed the file of Prof. Aaron Evans and received a
recommendation from an internal evaluation committee chaired by Chang Kee
Jung. The faculty voted unanimously to recommend Evans for promotion to
Associate Professor with tenure. I enthusiastically agree with that
recommendation and strongly urge a positive recommendation by the PTC and a
decision by the administration to promote Evans to the associate professor rank
with tenure.

Evans received his PhD in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii in 1996. He
spent the next three years as NICMOS postdoctoral scholar at Cal Tech, before
joining the Stony Brook faculty in 1999. In 2002, we won the NASA Faculty
Fellowship Award that permitted him to spend a summer in research at Cal Tech.
A decision on Aaron‟s promotion and tenure becomes mandatory during this
academic year.

I. Research evaluation

Astrophysics of the early universe and cosmology are unique among the
sciences in that laboratory experimentation and variation of the conditions for the
phenomena observed is not possible. Rather, careful observation of the
messages from the early universe in the form of various types of radiation gives
us all that we know about early galaxies and stars. Interpreting the clues
encoded in these radiations is a highly sensitive enterprise requiring great skill
and experience.

Most of our understanding of the morphology of the early universe is based upon
two pillars: the „red shift‟ of the light we receive and the intensity, and the spectral

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                               1
and the temporal distributions of that light. The red shift arises because of the
increasing speed with which distant objects recede from us (and each other)
proportional to their distance according to the Hubble Law, so measurement of
the red shift determines distance from us and hence the time at which the light
was emitted. The quality of the light tells us much about the physical processes
occurring in those distant objects.

In the past couple of decades, our understanding of the nature of the universe in
early times (up to about 20% of the current age of the universe) has been refined

We observe early clumpings of matter into huge galaxies, more densely packed
than today. These galaxies accreted gravitationally, and often collided giving
enhanced energy and matter for creating stars. In these galaxies, we see
evidence for huge central cores that are so massive that they collapsed into
black holes consisting of billions of solar masses within a radius of only 20 times
the earth-sun distance. The small size of the energy emitting region is inferred
from the rapid time variations of its energy emissions. The energy released as
matter falls into these cores is turned into X-rays that stream outward and are
transformed by collisions with ordinary matter into ultraviolet and visible light.
The huge burst of energy is seen as quasars. The quasars voraciously exhaust
the stellar material, and so become quiescent after a short time, explaining why
we see none in today‟s more peaceful universe. The very large mass density in
these early galaxies spawns a furious burst of star formation which evolves
quickly (on cosmological time) and often ends in supernova explosions seeding
the universe with the heavy elements seen in the earth‟s crust. The large
starburst galaxies are potent emitters of visible light, seen red-shifted today as
infrared or microwave radiation.

Aaron Evans‟ research investigates the properties of these early, very luminous
infrared galaxies (LIGs), seeking to understand their evolution through collisions,
coalescence and core collapse. Using a wide range of telescopes operating in
the visible, infrared and millimeter (microwave) portions of the spectrum, he and
his collaborators have assembled a broad sample of relatively nearby LIGs.
These observations over a very broad spectral range have enabled him to
assemble a full portrait of LIGs; this understanding can now be extended to the
more distant past and larger samples with new space-based infrared instruments
like the Spitzer telescope recently launched. Evans‟ measurements have given
us a much better understanding of the role of galactic collisions in forming LIGs,
helped us understand the transition into quasars, mapped out the spatial
distribution and internal structure of such galaxies, and explored the star
formation process and helped explain the background infrared emission from the
early universe. With his colleagues, he has extended the number of LIGs known
by a factor ten. This research has cemented the association of the active
luminous galaxies with star formation, demonstrated the presence of large

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                         2
amounts of gas necessary for the star formation, and shown a clear connection
between active galaxy formation and galactic collisions.

Assembling the profile of the early luminous galaxies requires information from a
wide range of telescopes, ranging from giant optical telescopes such as the Keck
on Mauna Kea, space based infrared telescopes including the Hubble, IRAS and
now Spitzer, and millimeter arrays such as the Owens Valley Millimeter Array.
His record at getting telescope time on this wide range of facilities is exceptional,
and has enabled the broad picture of LIGs that he has been able to assemble.
That he has mastered the techniques in so many disparate areas is unusual for
observational astronomers.

To conduct these studies it has been necessary that Evans works in moderately
large collaborations, as there are many aspects of data collection and
interpretation required to perform the laborious sleuthing needed to dig meaning
from the observations. The complexity of the calculations and interpretation in
his papers is large, so that each paper requires considerable effort and time.
[The PTC may want to sample the papers included in the file to gain a sense of
the complexities involved in these analyses.] This coupled with the unusually
large fraction of papers in which Evans is the first author (astronomy assigns
order of signing according to the impact of the individual on the work), has
translated into a publication list that is somewhat shorter than typical in fields
where less effort per paper is required. This relatively light publication record is
noted by some of his referees as somewhat negative, but is assessed by others
as substantial and impressive. I think that we should view the publication record
as very strong, particularly in view of the difficulties in bringing any one of them to
conclusion, and the substantial impact that they have made on the field.
[Referee M says “Given that his papers are by necessity long and well thought-
out on this complicated subject, I think it [publication record] is much better than
average.” ] Similar disparities in the referee‟s reports concern the citation impact;
one (Referee A) views these as on the light side, whereas several others (e.g.
Referees C and L) specifically comment on the impressive citation record.

Although the bulk of Evan‟s research has been directed to the study of the early
luminous galaxies, there is an interesting diversion to a study of the mysterious
objects lurking outside the orbit of Neptune in the Kuiper belt of our solar system.
The Kuiper belt is the repository of comet like objects. Evans and collaborators,
using a far infrared telescope on Mauna Kea, obtained observations from which it
was possible to deduce the size of Varuna and correlate its albedo (surface
reflectance) with that observed for other outer solar system objects, thus giving
information about its composition. This finding was published in Nature (number
24 on the publication list). Another fertile side trip was the study of the most
distant supernova, whose distance and velocity determination helps pin down the
deceleration of the universe (publication number 25). Both of these excursions
show Evan‟s broad interests and ability to capitalize on special opportunities as
they present themselves.

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                         3
Evans record of attracting external funding in this highly competitive field is good.
His biggest grant of $261K from NSF signaled his breakthrough for funding
sufficient to maintain a vital program that can support graduate students and
postdoctoral researchers. Referee L says of the grant record, “His success at
getting funding is also good, considering that the nominal success rate at NSF is
25% (I’ve been told by the program director that in extragalactic astronomy this
number has been been closer to 10% in the recent past), and for HST time is
10%.” Referee H concurs: “Aaron has had a reasonable number of grants”.

The picture of Evans that emerges from the file is one of a broad and insightful
researcher who has a strong focus on one of the most compelling areas of
modern astrophysics, and who has developed the broad range of observational
and calculational tools needed to wring new insights from complex data
samples. The letters uniformly place him in the top group of his peers. Referee
G notes that he has been the target of inquiries for raids by the University of
Arizona, Arizona State and Michigan (all top flight departments of astronomy).
Due to the large collaborations that Evans has forged, we have solicited letters
from more than the usual number of referees: seven have had collaborative ties
to Aaron and six have had none (or very minor ones). Those who know him from
his publications and talks are equally as complimentary as his collaborators. The
samples of comments from referees below (both positive and less
complimentary) all reflect the strong consensus that Evans is an accomplished
scientist with very well-rounded capabilities, and give the clear advice that he
should be promoted to Associate Professor at this time.

     Referee A: “Aaron did all the work reducing the HST data and writing the
     paper. … The discovery in the paper is the jet like features in the NICMOS
     image. This is a very important discovery by Aaron and he gets full credit.
     … On the negative side, I was disappointed by how long it took to get the
     paper published. I am also disappointed in the lack of recognition of the
     importance if this paper, as indicated by the deficient number of citations.
     … In comparing Aaron to the other NICMOS IDT postdoc’s … he is not as
     good as [person X] or [person Y]. He is certainly much better than most of
     the others. With regards to the question of tenure at my own institution […] ,
     honestly think he would be probably granted tenure here.”

     Referee B: “His research program is well focused but not too narrow. …
     While he has collaborated with a number of strong leaders in his field (…) ,
     his contribution is usually significant. Indeed, I am impressed by the
     number of papers on which he is first author. At my institution, Aaron would
     certainly be promoted from Assistant … to Associate Scientist.”

     Referee C: “Professor Evans’ experience and ability are top level, and he is
     widely respected in the millimeter and infrared astronomy community. … If

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                       4
    he were at our Institute, he would definitely receive a comparable

    Referee D: “His publication record is very good qualitatively, quantitatively
    and in terms of impact. While he generally works in close collaboration with
    senior astrophysicists, I have no doubt that Aaron has lead or strongly
    contributed to most of the research he has been involved in.”

    Referee E: “Aaron’s experience and research interests are broad. In
    addition to the high impact research in his primary domains of AGNs and
    starburst galaxies … Aaron has made major contributions to studies of the
    furthest known supernovae and the size and albedo of an intriguing Kuiper
    Belt object. … In summary, Aaron has demonstrated outstanding
    leadership, originality and enthusiasm for astronomical research; he has
    breadth, knowledge and experience comparable to the best people in his
    age group; he has an excellent publication record …”

    Referee F: “His recent success in winning observing time on the Spitzer
    Space Telescope is another strong indicator of Aaron’s promotion and
    receipt of tenure.”

    Referee G: “Aaron has been the leader in nearly all of the research projects
    he has been involved in while at Caltech and Stony Brook. … I would rate
    Aaron near the top of a list of several excellent recent junior faculty hires …
    Aaron would certainly have been given tenure were he here ...”

    Referee H: “Aaron has made very important contributions – particularly in
    understanding the nature of the AGN hosts.” Referee H notes that if there
    are any shortcomings, it is in the length of his publication and invited talks
    lists, but goes on to conclude: ”I would recommend promotion and tenure at
    Stony Brook.”

    Referee I: “I fully expect to see Aaron become a leader in one of the major
    areas of Spitzer science, i.e. understanding Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies
    and their importance in the evolution of galaxies in the Universe.”

    Referee J: “I don’t know Dr. Evans personally… . There is a large and very
    active community of astronomers working in this field, and Dr. Evans has
    made his mark as doing some of the most innovative work here. … In
    conclusion, Dr. Evans is carrying out important research and is having a real
    impact in one of the hottest fields of extragalactic astronomy. … I would
    recommend that he be granted tenure at Stony Brook.”

    Referee K: “Since he has been at Stony Brook … His research on the
    atomic and molecular gas in very luminous galaxies is that the top of the
    research carried out in this area. I see from his description of present and

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                       5
     future research that he intends to continue in this field where is one of the
     top experts. … I think Stony Brook would be very wise to keep Prof. Evans
     on the faculty.”

     Referee L: “Aaron has a significant number of publications concerning the
     infrared emission … . Aaron’s ability to combine optical, infrared, and
     millimeter/radio observations into a coherent multi-wavelength picture of a
     system is the way astronomers are beginning to work, and is a distinct
     advantage for work in this field. … If Aaron were at […] , I would expect him
     to be promoted to tenure. In fact, Aaron’s name came up a couple of years
     ago when we were hoping to initiate a search … .”

     Referee M: “I know from my own experience that the extragalactic
     observational astronomy field is very, very competitive, and that the total
     level of funding he obtained (~$350,000) is probably more than average for
     junior faculty in their first five years in comparable Research I universities.
     … I urge you strongly to give Aaron Evans the promotion to Associate
     Professor with Tenure at Stony Brook. If you don’t, please let me know, so
     that we may have a second chance to hire him at […]. ”

II. Teaching evaluation

Evans has taught a standard load since his arrival at Stony Brook. Apart from his
first semester when he had just one graduate seminar, he has taught a primary
three hour lecture or lab course and a secondary recitation or seminar section.
His primary assignments have ranged from the introductory course AST105 on
planetary astronomy, through the graduate course PHY 523 on galaxies to the
graduate/senior laboratory course required for physics majors and PhD students.

The AST105 course is a general introduction for non-science majors satisfying
DEC E requirements. The enrollment is typically over 200, with many of the
students quite frightened at the prospect of a hard science course. The average
evaluation scores (department form on a basis of 1 – 10 with 10 highest) of these
astonomy is typically about 6.6. Evans has done better than this average each
time he taught the course. The three figures below show the distributions of
student evaluations for the last three times he taught this course. A high
percentage of the students explicitly note his enthusiasm, his openness to give
extra help, and his excellent lecture slides.

Student Q writes of the AST105 experience: “Professor Evans was well
prepared for class each day with power points and a supplement lecture. He
was animated and very clear about the topic. … He even had some funny jokes.
… Over all I really enjoyed taking the Astronomy class and having Evans as
professor.” Student S says of her experience in spring 2001: “In class, Dr. Evans
explained the concepts of the course material well. He seemed enthusiastic

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                          6
about the subject. When students did not understand an idea, he did not hesitate
to explain it again.”

                                 AST105 Evans Fall 2001




                6                                                     Series1



                     1   2   3     4     5     6     7   8   9   10
                                       Average 7.7

In fall 2004, two members of the department visiting Evan‟s planetary astronomy
class and … . Reviewer N says … Reviewer O says …
                                 ASTA105 Evans Fall 2002


                10                                                    Series1
                     1   2   3     4     5     6     7   8   9   10
                                        Avg = 8.0

                                 AST105 Evans Fall 2003


                 5                                                    Series1
                     1   2   3     4     5     6     7   8   9   10
                                        Avg = 7.7

The graduate course on galaxies is taught only every other year. This course is
required of those whose PhD research will be in astronomy, and serves as one of
the breadth courses required of all graduate students to assure that they know
about areas other than their own research field. Aaron‟s performance here is

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                   7
also reasonable, with an average evaluation of 6.9, roughly the mean score for
these courses (see the distribution for the most recent such course below). The
student comments taken from letters amplify the evaluation of his teaching for
advanced courses:

Student P says “I believe that of the four astronomy courses required of
astronomy graduate students, I learned the most from Dr. Evans’ course. … His
lectures engaged myself and my fellow students, and he was always ready to
answer our questions. … In addition to my experiences as [in class], … he has
been and continues to be a mentor, always willing to advise me on the finer
points of research and graduate school.”

Student R writes: “Out of the many classes I attended during my stay in Stony
Brook, I found Dr. Evans’ class more enjoyable and informative than most. … It
was quite clear that Dr. Evans actually cared about his students and whether or
not they could/were assimilating all the material.”

Student T notes: “I felt he went beyond his teaching duties, to provide the clas
with well organized and useful class notes, available on the internet. … He
showed a genuine concern for the progress of his students.”

                              PHY523 Evans Spring 2004


                      1   2   3   4   5      6    7   8   9   10
                                      Avg = 6.9

The evaluation of Evans as a teacher in smaller settings such as the recitations
and graduate laboratory is even more favorable than in the larger lecture
courses. This speaks to his genuine concern that students are learning and able
to set the course material in a wider context.

Two years ago, Evans saw the need for a seminar course that introduced
undergraduates to current trends in astronomy research and instituted AST200,
Astronomical Research at Stony Brook. He has taught this course each spring
since then to favorable reviews.

Evans currently supervises two graduate students. One works on infrared amd
millimeter wave observations of luminous galaxies and the other on radio

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                      8
galaxies using Hubble Space Telescope data. He has supervised projects for
three undergraduate research projects and two undergraduate directed reading
courses. Referee E notes “I have observed Aaron supervising his student [xx] at
the Owens Valley Radio Observatory millimeter array, and the United Kingdom
Infrared Telescope on Mauna Kea. He does a fantastic job, is generous with his
time, and is proving himself an excellent advisor …”

III. Service

Within the Department, Evans has given good service. He has been a member
of the undergraduate research committee that seeks to find opportunities for
many undergraduates to join research projects across the department. Many of
these have shown their results at conferences or at the annual undergraduate
research symposium. He was a member of the committee that upgraded the
graduate curriculum in 2000-2001. He has served as a member of the
committee to bring distinguished colloquium speakers to campus each week.

At the university level, Aaron serves on the Academic Judiciary committee,
hearing cases related to academic honesty. He brings considerable experience
to this task as one of those who has brought charges related to observing
exercises connected with AST105 (“no, you could not have seen the moon that
night – there was a blizzard raging outside.”)

At the national level, Evans has had more than usual involvement in service
tasks. He was the chair of the NSF panel reviewing proposals for the National
Radio Astronomy Observatory, and has served on other NSF proposal panels.
He was on a panel to award travel grants administered by the American
Astronomical Society. He was selected by the NSF to review the operation of
millimeter wave telescopes in the US and Mexico. Referee E writes “Aaron has
an impressive record of service on committees that benefit the general
astronomical community. His recent membership on panels … especially serving
as Chair of the NRAO 5-year review panel, demonstrate another facet of his
commitment, expertise and highly regarded standing in the astrophysics
community.” Referee C also comments on the service on these panels, and
writes also about Evans‟ organization of a recent symposium held at the
Sunwood Estate: “He did all of this with extreme courtesy and a wonderful
efficiency. It’s rare that everything goes so well at a conference – I was very

More than most assistant professors, Aaron Evans has satisfied the
requirements that all three legs of the research, teaching and service stool are
firmly grounded. He also serves as a beacon for minority students to show that
intellectual goals are worthy, even if challenging. In the constellation of the
Physics and Astronomy Department and the broader University, Evans

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                      9
epitomizes the roles of scholar, engaged teacher, and responsible member of his
community that Stony Brook should hope to retain.

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                10
Identification of external referees, internal reviewers of teaching, and students

                       (referred to in Chair‟s letter)

Referee A: Eric Becklin, Professor of Astronomy, University of California at Los
Angeles. Becklin was co-author with Evans on several publications.

Referee B: James Condon, National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Condon
has only a minor collaboration with Evans.

Referee C: Dennis Downes, Institut de Radio Astronomie Millemetrique, St.
Martin d‟Heres, France, Head of Astronomy Group and past Director-Adjoint of
IRAM. Downes has collaborated with Evans on three papers (1996-1998).
Downes was a choice for a reference by Evans.

Referee D: Professor Dr. Reinhard Genzel, Managing Director Max Planck
Institut for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany. Genzel has not
collaborated with Evans.

Referee E: Joseph Mazzarella, Professor of Astrophysics, Infrared Processing &
Analysis Center, California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion
Laboratory. Mazzarella has co-authored papers with Evans. Mazzarella was a
choice for a reference by Evans.

Referee F: Marcia Reike, Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona. Reike
has collaborated with Evans.

Referee G: David Sanders, Professor of Astronomy, University of Hawaii and
Institute for Astronomy, Humboldt Senior Award 2000-2002. Sanders was Evans
PhD advisor. Sanders was a choice for a reference by Evans.

Referee H: Nick Scoville, California Institute of Technology and Director of the
Owens Valley Radio Observatory. Scoville has co-authored papers with Evans.

Referee I: Baruch Soifer, Professor of Physics and Spitzer Science Center
Director. Spitzer has worked with Evans on several projects.

Referee J: Michael Strauss, Professor of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton
University. Strauss has not collaborated with Evans.

Referee K: Rodger Thompson, Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona.
Thompson has not collaborated with Evans.

Referee L: Jean Turner, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of
California at Los Angeles. Turner has not collaborated with Evans.

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                       11
Referee M: Rogier Windhorst, Professor of Astronomy, Arizona State University.
Windhorst has not collaborated with Evans.

Reviewer N: Thomas Hemmick, a member of the Department of Physics and
Astronomy who won the Chancellor‟s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Reviewer O: xxx

Student P: Chad Bender, a PhD student in the department not working with

Student Q: Carla Faraguna, who took AST105 in her freshman year.

Student R: Jerry Francischelli, a former PhD student whose thesis was not with

Student S: Grace Ho who took AST105 in Spring 20001.

Student T: Gail Schaefer who took the graduate course on galaxies in Spring
2000 while a graduate student in the department.

Evans_ptc.doc                                                                 12