Robert McLaren

IfA Interim Director
Ph.D. 1973, Toronto (Physics)
M.Sc 1970 Toronto (Physics)
B.Sc. 1968 Toronto (Math & Physics)
  • Observatory Development
  • Site Characterisation
  • Instrumentation
IfA Mānoa, C-120
(808) 956-8531(808) 956-8531


Since my arrival at the Institute for Astronomy in 1990, I have been  involved primarily with the development of astronomy facilities on Mauna Kea.  For the first six years, I spent most of my time on the agreements and permitting for the VLBA Antenna, Subaru, Keck II, Gemini, and the Submillimeter Array.  During my term as Interim Director, I worked on the University’s Master Plan for Mauna Kea (adopted in 2000), and on the development of the Institute’s  base facility in Hilo.  More recently, in my position as Associate Director, I have assisted with the Pan-STARRS project on Haleakala and with the approval process for the Daniel K. Inouye Telescope on Haleakala and the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.   I handle a number of day-to-day responsibilities in the Director’s Office and have administrative  responsibility for Maunakea Observatories Support Services.


While at Toronto (1975-82), I was one of a group of faculty and students who redetermined the distances to several Local Group galaxies using the Cepheid Period-Luminosity relation in the infrared.  We showed that by employing infrared photometry, we could greatly reduce the uncertainties which arise in the optical as a result of extinction and variations in temperature among Cepheids.  While at CFHT (1982-90), I collaborated with a number of visiting observers on a variety of research topics:  IR occultation observations of Neptune, volcanic hot spots on Io, high-resolution 10-mm imaging.  I have not engaged in personal astronomical research since 1990.  I have a longstanding interest in astronomical instrumentation.  Recently, I have been working in the areas of observatory site characterization, site monitoring, and custom weather forecasting.


I have taught  the introductory astronomy course at the University of Hawaii at Manoa several times, including the laboratory section.


Board and Committee Memberships


Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

Board of Directors  1997 –


Gemini Observatory

Board of Directors  1993 – 2003; 2005 – 2016

Gemini Director Search Committee (chair) 2005


Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA)

Member Representative  1998 – 2014

Observatories Council  1998 – 2003

Coordinating Committee of Observatory Research Directors (ACCORD)  1998 – 2000

Solar Observatory Council 2010-16


TMT International Observatory

UH Observer Member  2014-


Visiting Committees

Carnegie Observatories  2002

Lowell Observatory  2005



  • Robert W. Clopton Award for Distinguished Community Service (University of Hawaii, 1992)