Sigrid Burton and Max Brennan pose with an elephant

A Fund For the Next Generation

After four decades in New York City, Sigrid Burton and Max Brennan decided it was time to return to Burton’s hometown of Pasadena. Burton, a visual artist, and Brennan, recently retired from fabricating one-of-a kind architectural elements, were invited by a friend to attend a “Lunch with an Astronomer” program at the Carnegie Observatories. The couple was hooked—not just on the science but also on the peerless historical contributions behind Carnegie astronomy.

From then on, Burton and Brennan have attended Observatories events, supported the Observatories’ annual fund, hosted a kick-off event to launch the 2016 Carnegie Astronomy Lecture Series, and, most recently, established an endowment—The Atacama Fund—to support Observatories postdocs.

Unlike many research establishments, where postdocs work in a hierarchy, Carnegie astronomy postdocs work alongside senior scientists collaborating and contributing equally, while being mentored. They are the core workforce and participate fully in the Observatories’ intellectual life, with complete access to the scientific resources at the Pasadena campus and, importantly, at the telescopes at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatories in Chile. 


Burnishing a Legacy

In 2021, Carnegie named Earth and Planets Laboratory Staff Scientists Diana Roman and Lara Wagner as the Institution’s first Harry Oscar Wood Chairs of Seismology. 

The Wood fund was established in 1958 through a bequest by Harry Oscar Wood, whose early career research on the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake was financed by Carnegie.  Later, Carnegie employed Wood to work with Observatories scientist John A. Anderson on the development of a new type of seismometer, which served as stimulus for the creation of the Caltech Seismological Laboratory.

Carnegie’s stewardship of Wood’s original gift to advance seismological research has allowed the fund to grow to a size where it can support two staff positions.  In addition to these two chairs, the Wood fund finances two postdoctoral fellows at the Earth and Planets Laboratory.

Nentcho Nentchev

The Reach Of Our Community

Nentcho Nentchev grew up in Bulgaria in a mountainous region with dry summer nights and little light pollution—and very few options. “So, at night, we would go outside and look up at the stars,” he said. “That is really where my passion for astronomy began, looking up at the night sky and wondering. How could you look up and not wonder what is out there?”

And that wonder grew as he got older and realized how little we know about our universe–and how much there is to discover. Though his career is not in astronomy, Nentchev wanted a way to stay connected to that curiosity and to help others who are doing the research. 

He began to search for science non-profits and chose Carnegie Science. The longevity and financial responsibility of the organization gave him confidence that my support is a lasting investment. “But what really sets Carnegie apart is that I know by supporting a smaller organization, I can have a bigger direct impact,” he explained. “Carnegie allows their scientists to go where their curiosity takes them, and I believe this is how science truly advances.”