Astrophysicist offers advice to incoming students at convocation

by University Communications,

David J. Helfand, president and vice chancellor of Quest University Canada, is Willamette University’s 2013 convocation speaker.

Helfand will give his talk, “How not to spend the next four years,” on Aug. 23 from 10:30 a.m. to noon in Smith Auditorium. The event is open to first-year students and their families, in addition to other Willamette students, faculty, administrators and staff.

During his speech, Helfand will discuss how college is a time when students should enjoy getting an education, instead of focusing too much on making the right connections and accumulating as many credits as possible.

Before joining Quest, Helfand worked for 35 years as a professor of astronomy at Columbia University — where he also served as department chairman and co-director of the Astrophysics Laboratory for more than 17 years.

He is the author of nearly 200 scientific publications covering many areas of modern astrophysics. He received the 2001 Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the 2002 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates, and he now serves as president of the American Astronomical Society — the professional organization of astronomers, planetary scientists and solar physicists in North America.

In recent years, Helfand has made television appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” and National Geographic’s “The Known Universe.”