I met Michael Koppelman for the first time sitting under a cabana at the Outrigger Hotel in Waikoloa Beach, Hawaii, at the 2002 Spring Meeting. We had a lot in common, being relatively new to the AAVSO, former professional musicians, variable star enthusiasts, married with children and working for companies we owned. We hit it off right away. Neither of us could have ever imagined that ten years later he would be in line to become president of the AAVSO and I would be on the staff of the organization we love so dearly.
I caught up with Michael recently and we talked about the AAVSO, the future and strategic planning.
SXN- You have one of the coolest jobs ever, Michael. Tell us about it.
KMP- I am one of the owners and Chief Scientist at http://www.clockwork.net/ . We are a web shop and a truly unique and beautiful company.
SXN- Are you an active observer? If yes, what kind of stars do you observe primarily?
KMP- I am currently on hiatus. I have two small children and an active business and it has taken me away from my observatory. But I look forward to being back someday soon! My interest has been in massive stars, CVs, RR Lyraes and the occasional eclipser.
SXN- What compelled you to serve on council?
KMP- The altruist in me was hoping that my experience owning and running a business about the size of the AAVSO would be germane and that my technical experience might be of some assistance as we approach a 21st century AAVSO. The selfish part was just wanting to be a bigger part of an organization that I enjoyed and to hang out with top notch, fun, ethical, smart people.
SXN- Being a business owner, you've probably done a lot of strategic planning. One way to do that is the SWOT method. You determine your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and then plan short-term and long-term goals and strategies based on that. Let's try a mini- SWOT analysis. What do you think is the organizations greatest strength?
KMP- I know it sounds trite but – the people. I found the organization very welcoming back in 2002 and ever since. The Director, staff, Council and membership have been top notch, fun, ethical, smart people who are trying their best. You can't beat that.
SXN- What do you feel is the AAVSO's weakness?
KMP- If you are forcing me to use the word "weakness" I'd say it's trying to effect big change with a small lever. We want to inspire the next generation of scientists and our tool to do that is variable stars. It's a big challenge!
SXN- What do you think is the AAVSO's greatest opportunity for the future?
KMP- I think human beings will always love astronomy. It's the "pop" science. I think the deep roots we have at the AAVSO uniquely position us to bring ordinary people to science through stars.
SXN- What do you think is the AAVSO's greatest threat?
KMP- I think a mission based solely on one specific type of astronomical object is too small. We need a bigger vision and a bigger mission to be relevant in the coming century. Our biggest threat is that we don't think big.
SXN- Any final thoughts for the membership? Here is your chance to stump for your favorite issue or cause as 2nd Vice President of the council.
KMP- All good things come from the bottom up. It's not HQ that will keep the AAVSO relevant, it's the membership. The AAVSO was started by people who valued the unique spirit of the amateur scientist. For over 100 years, since well before the phrase "citizen science" was coined, the AAVSO has been the keeper of the flame of amateur science. We need the next generation of astronomy tinkerers and hackers to invent the AAVSO of the future.