STEM Shoutout: Dr. Patricia Henning

UNM professor of physics and astronomy named assistant director at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory

Dr. Patricia Henning, a UNM professor of physics and astronomy, and associate vice president for research was named the assistant director of science support and research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). 


“I look forward to working with really great people who are excellent at what they do, in an environment where everyone is dedicated to providing world-leading telescopes, instrumentation, and expertise — training the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promoting astronomy to foster a more scientifically literate society,” Henning said. 


This position is one of several assistant director positions at the NRAO each responsible for various functions. Henning will be supporting all scientific users of NRAO instruments and overseeing the research environment of the scientific staff. 


She said this work includes several activities such as managing telescope time allocation processes, coordinating student and postdoctoral programs, and helping to shape the way new data is shared throughout the astronomical community. 


“Throughout all of my activities, I’ll be committed to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I will serve on the NRAO Diversity Council,” Henning said.


Henning said she has had a passion for astronomy, with a focus on radio astronomy for a long time and has enjoyed mentoring individuals at different times in their careers — undergraduate to faculty — while working to diversify the STEM field. 


She added that while her current positions shifted her focus to administration duties, she is happy to work with a UNM graduate student, Monica Sanchez-Barrantes, on two radio astronomy projects. One uses the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico to map the distribution of galaxies hidden behind the Milky Way. They are also working with a team using the Very Large Array to study how galaxies have evolved over the past four billion years. 


Henning will take a leave of absence from the University, and start her new role at the end of August.