Professor of Physics Rich Wolfson, longtime secretary to the board of directors of VASE, has seen Middlebury take a growing leadership role in the organization.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - The Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering (VASE) will open its annual meeting—held this year at Middlebury ­on October 17—with a public lecture by David Latham of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Latham is the director of science for TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which was launched successfully in April. His talk is titled “The Search for Habitable Worlds.”

TESS is monitoring more than 200,000 stars and is in the process of discovering what are expected to be thousands of planets orbiting these stars. Stars chosen for the TESS survey are bright, making their planets’ properties relatively easy to characterize. These properties—including compositions of planetary atmospheres—will help scientists identify possible habitable planets. Habitable candidates will be studied further with larger ground-based telescopes and the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2021. The TESS team announced its first exoplanet detection on September 16, and Latham’s talk is expected to include a preview of early results from TESS’s observations.

Astrophysicist David Latham will give a talk, “The Search for Habitable Worlds,” at the start of VASE’s annual meeting on October 17.

VASE directs a K–12 outreach program, offers grants, and advocates for state support for science and engineering. More information about the organization is available here.

The VASE conference this year will be the second that Middlebury has hosted since the organization was founded. “It’s been very gratifying to see Middlebury College play a growing role in VASE’s leadership,” said Rich Wolfson, professor of physics and longtime secretary to VASE’s board of directors. Frank Winkler, Middlebury professor of physics emeritus, has been VASE president for a number of years. According to Wolfson, Winkler will step down this year and Middlebury Professor of Biology Grace Spatafora will assume this role. Several other Middlebury faculty are also members of VASE and Stephen Knowlton ’75 is a board member.

Latham’s lecture is free and open to the public. It will take place at 5 p.m. in Room 216 of Bicentennial Hall at Middlebury College. For more information, contact Rich Wolfson at