Prof Wayne Holland

Prof Wayne Holland
Prof Wayne Holland

On the 22nd of May 2019 we lost one of the leading figures in submillimetre astronomy. Wayne Holland was a respected and much liked astronomer who will be sadly missed by his friends and colleagues. Wayne was one of those people who went out of his way to support and encourage others. He will be remembered fondly by the many astronomers who visited the JCMT, with Wayne as their support astronomer, benefitting from his constant nurturing of the SCUBA camera to ensure they got the best science from their observing run.

Wayne began his career at Lancashire Polytechnic, reading astronomy, and then made the move to Queen Mary College for a PhD on submillimetre instrumentation working under the expert tutelage of Peter Ade. From there he moved to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh to work as an instrument scientist with Walter Gear, Bill Duncan and Colin Cunningham on what would become the world’s first submillimetre camera and transformational sub-mm instrument, SCUBA. In 1996 Wayne followed the camera to the JCMT in Hawaii and was the key person in the extensive commissioning work. Wayne spent 4 years in Hawaii, keeping SCUBA operational, by no means an easy task. SCUBA was new in every way – new (and sometimes temperamental) technologies brought new and unexpected atmospheric and calibration questions, all resulting in scientifically ground-breaking observations because Wayne, and his determined attention to detail, made it all work. While in Hawaii he married his co-worker, Jane Greaves. Many of us have fond memories of this episode in his life and the New Year ‘Wayne and Jane’ parties were memorable (well maybe somewhat fuzzy) events much enjoyed by the JAC staff.

Wayne returned to Edinburgh to the UK ATC in September 2000 to lead the development of a successor to SCUBA, the even more ambitious SCUBA-2 instrument. After a significant investment of time and effort by Wayne and the team, it was delivered to Hawaii in 2008. Wayne accompanied it to see the commissioning satisfactorily completed and made subsequent visits to see it bedded-in. Also in 2008, he was appointed a visiting Professor at the Institute of Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, recognising his science collaborations and the supervision and help he provided for many IfA students. Wayne was not only an instrumentalist, and he made a number of important observations in his own right; especially in the field of debris disks using SCUBA. He followed this up by being the PI on the SCUBA-2 legacy survey of nearby stars looking for debris disks, the SONS project. Wayne was a consummate professional, who avoided the limelight and often worked behind the scenes to ensure that whatever project he was working on at the time, the data would be well calibrated and analysed. This continued to the present, when he joined the NESS consortium in 2018 taking responsibility for optimising the SCUBA-2 data reduction pipeline.

At the UK ATC, Wayne continued his interests in astronomy instrumentation alongside his debris disk research using SCUBA-2. For many years he was the conference chair of the “Sub-mm Detectors and Instrumentation” conference at the bi-annual SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation, building it up from small beginnings into a significant 3-day meeting. He was an associate editor for JATISS and chaired design reviews for DKIST. He was a co-I on FISICA, the scientific study and conceptual design for a submillimetre interferometer to be flown in space. Wayne was an active member of the AtLAST instrumentation working group, producing performance metrics, such as sensitivity and mapping speeds, for different types of instrument to support developing the science case last year. Wayne was keenly engaged in various technology development activities at the UK ATC, using his knowledge and experience to help others, notably FAME+ and Additive Manufacturing and his leading the OPTICON Technology and Innovation workpackage. Recently Wayne had become particularly interested in Cubesats and their usage across a number of fields.

In 2018 Wayne’s lifelong skills and dedication were justly rewarded with the presentation of the Jackson-Gwilt medal by the Royal Astronomical Society for services to astronomy and instrumentation. One of his last research papers was a major review for the Royal Society: ‘Thirty Years of Science with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope’.

We will remember Wayne as a great person, an excellent astronomer. In his private life he was a talented musician. With his partner of 14 years, Alan Hay, he enjoyed concerts and shows with a zest for life and fun. He even attended the amazing opening spectacle of the London Olympics and regaled us at coffee time with all details ! Wayne had style, who could forget the amazing spiky hair of recent years, or the carefully worn-in look of his designer jeans.

Wayne’s enthusiasm, his modesty, his professionalism and kindness will be missed by a great many.

Gillian Wright & Ian Robson
31st May 2019

Anecdotes and Memories

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From Peter Ade

Wayne became my PhD student in 1986 to work on the development of bolometric detector systems for astronomy. His thesis work was pivotal to the development and deployment of Scuba – the first submillimetre camera which enabled astronomers to explore this fertile region which is important to understanding planetary and star formation as well as being capable of extragalactic observation.

His thesis work was largely experimental and involved spending long hours in the laboratory undertaking tedious measurements of yet another detector or horn feed configuration – tasks he undertook with enthusiasm. As those who know Wayne would expect – he kept meticulous notes on all the details – which led to a 1000 page thesis draft crammed with interesting results. We whittled this down to about a third of this for submission which he achieved after 4 years work in 1990 – an excellent accomplishment for such an experimental study.

Following his PhD Wayne continued to work with me as a Post Doc on the design and build of the Scuba instrument – work that we engaged in with the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Although not widely known we also developed X-ray calorimeters at that time which were competitive to the best available.

To deploy Scuba on the JCMT in Hawaii the UK project team were looking for an instrument scientist who had a good knowledge of sub-kelvin bolometric detectors – Wayne was the man for this job and hence he moved on in 1996 to work for the ATC and assist with the commissioning of Scuba.

As a number of well-known astronomers know – you never leave the Astronomy Instrumentation Group here – you just become one of the extended family with a common interest in pushing back the frontiers of our understanding about our place in the Universe. So I have continued to work with Wayne through the years on a number of projects including the successor to Scuba with the novel name Scuba2.

Wayne never lost his enthusiasm for research or his questioning mind which probed areas where more insight was needed – as such he was a key person to talk to and will be sorely missed be all of us.

For me this is a difficult time – to see a younger person pass away before you is never easy – and in this case someone who had so much left to offer. However, as I reflect I think we all should rejoice in remembering the good time he bought – the comrade and the enthusiasm – and the legacy that he leaves us with in his published work.

Wayne – you deserve to rest in peace now – Peter.

From Ken Wilson

I recall standing in the flexure lab during the building of SCUBA with Wayne and Ken Laidlaw. The topic of conversation was the elements and suddenly Wayne burst into song and sang the periodic table from start to finish. What a guy, he was brilliant and I was amazed.

From Helen Fraser

I'm certainly no expert sub-mm observer, but whenever I have sought Wayne's help and input he took time, patience and kindness to help and explain. This will be my overriding memeory of Wayne. More recently Wayne had agreed to examine a PhD thesis for a student of mine - he was very enthusiastic about the new (sub-mm) techniques beign developed and used, and tried his upmost to be able to undertake the viva. In true Wayne style he never gave up hoping to act as extrenal until his illness simply made that too challenging - and even then there was no dram, just a quiet unassuming "excuse me" along with some lovely comments on the thesis. Thankyou Wayne.You will be sorely missed but never forgotten.

From Ken Laidlaw

I have very fond memories of working with Wayne on the development and operation of the ground-breaking SCUBA instrument both at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and at the JCMT.

Without doubt, Wayne is the hardest working and most dedicated colleague I have ever had. Without his determination and commitment I have no doubt that SCUBA would not have enjoyed the same level of success that it did.

Not only was Wayne a fantastic instrumentalist he was a great mentor to many other colleagues. He always made time to support others helping them understand the complexities of SCUBA.

Outside of work, Wayne was a very sociable person who enjoyed throwing parties and attending weekly gatherings at Harrington's in Hilo for beers and PuPus!

Wayne was a fantastic person, who had an amazing career and I was very fortunate to have worked alongside him. RIP.

From Carolyn Atkins

Wayne's astronomy cupcakes
Wayne's astronomy cupcakes

Sharing an office with Wayne was a wonderful thing. Professionally he was a fountain of knowledge and exceptionally generous with his time - particularly when it came to critiquing a document (… pedantic comes to mind), or by asking the right (and often challenging) questions. However, the majority of our office conversations were on frivolous matters: the pros and cons of certain boot styles – Dr Martens and cowboy boots were held in high regard in the office; the ‘correct’ answer combinations to ensure that we would get the preferred result on a Harry Potter Quiz, Wayne was a Slytherin obviously; and the planning, execution and eventual tasting of Wayne’s amazing astronomy themed cupcakes a feat for which he earned the title of ‘ROE Star Baker 2017’.

From Bill Duncan

Wayne and I worked very closely on the very ambitious and complex SCUBA-2 project. It was a great source of satisfaction to me to see the completion, testing, delivery and operation of the instrument on the JCMT under Wayne’s excellent leadership. Wayne was always cheerful, meticulous, inventive and just fun to be with even when we had difficulties of many kinds on the project. I remember venturing out on a freezing cold night in Boulder with Wayne to have a working meeting with the NIST scientists who eventually built large portions of the SCUBA-2 detector arrays. At the time we were trying to persuade NIST to build the arrays. The gathering was in the basement of a funky local tavern to play pool, the ATC versus NIST. We were careful to play well (but not too well – Wayne gently curbing my competitive nature at pool that arose from spending far too much time playing snooker in my youth!) and a good bridge building time was had by all. Wayne had an ability to relate and get on well with all he met, balancing professionalism and fun in a way that made friends and forged meaningful collaborations. There was nothing to dislike and everything to like about Wayne and I remember our time working on the project with great fondness.

From Walter Gear

Wayne was a major part of my life for well over 30 years. When I was a postdoc in Preston, Wayne was an undergraduate who was apparently in my tutorial class, but so quiet and shy I have no memory of him ever speaking ! I then moved to ROE and started working on JCMT and what became SCUBA, and Wayne started his PhD with Peter Ade and Matt Griffin in Queen Mary working on the detectors for SCUBA. and that was when I first began to interact with him. Right from the start it was clear that Wayne was a very careful, determined and thorough researcher, he didnt say much but when he did you know it would be correct.

Of course Wayne really came into his own when SCUBA finally shipped to Hawaii and Wayne became the support lead and really got the instrument working to its full capacity, especially after I got out of his way and returned to Edinburgh! In his years in Hawaii the whole astronomical world got to know Wayne as the go-to person with any questions not just about the instrument but about the science it could do, and what it couldn't. He published some outstanding papers in this time, particularly alongside Jane Greaves and others on debris disks.

Wayne then became the driving force behind what became SCUBA-2, orders of magnitude more capable than SCUBA and still the leading submm camera in the world today, more than 10 years after its delivery and commissioning! SCUBA-2 was completely Wayne's baby. He was always able to get that little bit extra out of the data and there was always a queue of people wanting him to work his magic on their images. Wayne continued doing excellent science and his magnum opus debris disks paper from the SONS survey will remain an outstanding scientific legacy. Wayne had by now of course branched out into investigating many new areas of astronomical technology and led many important studies, and teams at the ROE and elsewhere.

I have never in all the decades I have known Wayne ever heard anyone say a bad word about him, nor him utter a bad word about anyone else. He was one of those extremely rare individuals of whom one can say he was truly a good man. He was intensely private, and it was sometimes difficult to know what he was thinking, if he had nothing important to say he preferred to say nothing. He fought his tragic illness with incredible dignity and positivity, I am sure right to the end. He will be badly missed by all of us who were proud to count him as a friend and colleague, and I hope we give him a fitting farewell.

From Jonas Zmuidzinas

Professionally, Wayne had a huge impact on me, and this is could be said for basically anyone associated with submillimeter astronomy. Wayne was a critical contributor to the SCUBA instrument, and SCUBA’s discoveries revolutionized the field. The largest ground-based astronomy project in the world today – the ALMA array in Chile – is now in large part following up on SCUBA’s discoveries, whether that means studying distant submillimeter-bright galaxies or imaging dusty disks around nearby stars. Of course, Wayne himself did pioneering work on the latter topic using SCUBA.

But Wayne did not stop after SCUBA – he went on to do SCUBA2. This was an extremely ambitious and audacious undertaking, far larger and more complex than any previous submillimeter instrument. Not surprisingly, the path to success was bumpy and there were many challenges and problems. But this project inspired the team, and in fact inspired the entire field to aim higher. As with SCUBA, SCUBA2’s legacy continues to be felt today – for example, many cosmic microwave background experiments have benefited from SCUBA2’s development of detector and readout technology.

I had many professional interactions with Wayne over the years – for example, I served on SCUBA2 review panels, and Wayne and I co-organized the SPIE conferences on submillimeter instrumentation for many years. However, I got to know Wayne quite a bit better over the summer of 2007, when I had the good fortune to be a visitor at the UKATC in Edinburgh. The SCUBA2 project was at peak intensity and Wayne had his hands full – Ian Robson would check in with Wayne almost daily – but Wayne nonetheless graciously invited me to share his office that summer, and set aside plenty of time for discussions with me. It was through these discussions that I came to really appreciate Wayne’s very sharp intellect as well as his genuine warmth and humor. Wayne will be greatly missed.

From Colin Cunningham

Shortly after I started work at the ROE in 1987, Walter Gear and I went to Queen Mary College (as it was then) to talk to Peter Ade about bolometer options for SCUBA. Here we met Peter’s PhD student, Wayne Holland. Little did we realise that this rather shy young man from the NW of England would be so important in the future success of our instrument. Wayne was the glue that held the project together, with his terrific enthusiasm, attention to detail, and determination to push through all difficulties to succeed. First his PhD paved the way for successful detector selection, then he was the key member of the lab testing phase, through interminable cool-downs at ROE, then paving the way for the instrument in Hawaii, before he came back to Edinburgh for the final push to completion. He was the real ‘completer-finisher’ that the team needed. Then he was instrumental in making this ambitious instrument so productive on the telescope. Through all this, I saw his confidence and leadership skills developing so that he was able to carry out his superb work on SCUBA-2, which was even more ambitious. He was now able to present inspiring talks on both the instruments and his science at international conference, and went on to successfully chair the SPIE mmwave detector conference for many years, with Jonas Zmuidzinas of Caltech. He will be sorely missed. Thank you Wayne.

From Bill Dent

In the 1990’s, being a heterodyne sort of person on the JCMT, pesky bolometer systems like UKT14 and SCUBA always seemed to get in the way; they were constantly breaking and took all the telescope time. Wayne, with his combination of technical, management and scientific skills, was the key person that really pushed and made SCUBA deliver. It’s fair to say that this one instrument transformed the JCMT’s reputation and made sub-millimetre astronomy mainstream. Its’ arrival (and coincidently, that of El Niño) in the late 1990’s gave birth to the first images of sub-millimetre galaxies and debris disks. But these results did not come easily - Wayne was always disappearing out to Hawaii and up the mountain to give the instrument a bit more TLC. He gave SCUBA many hours of dedication ‘above and beyond’ to get these results.

Wayne excelled at passing his enthusiasm, drive and generosity onto others. Uniquely, this included students, engineers, managers and the funding agencies.

Just a few weeks ago, he was still sending me ideas for a talk I needed to give. Of course, his thoughts were relevant, novel and important. Typical Wayne.

The ‘Wayne and Jane’ parties in Hilo were always an event not to be missed. As was their wedding in the Painted Church on the Big Island. I remember him being very proud of his car in Hawaii, the Purple Porch. And he was the only person brave enough to also own a convertible when he moved back to the Scottish climate.

From Alison Toni

I met Wayne before I met Bill, but I learned who Bill was through stories from Wayne & Jane.

Wayne was always a favourite of the project assistants, he was funny, always funny, and always interesting and interested in what we were doing. I learned more about what we did at the ATC from Wayne than I did from anyone else. His enthusiasm for what he did translated to explaining SCUBA and SCUBA2 to people like me with no scientific background. Even if I did have a better grasp of grammar and spelling than he did.