Caltech's Kip Thorne, Ron Drever, and Robbie Vogt in the LIGO 40-meter prototype facility at Caltech, 1990
June 11, 2019

New Fellowship Honors Robbie Vogt, Who Shaped World-Leading Observatories

Devoted educator deepened campus–JPL ties and helped bring about Voyager, the W. M. Keck Observatory, LIGO

Nobel laureate Kip Thorne (BS ’62), Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus, helped to initiate a new graduate fellowship named for his longtime colleague Robbie Vogt, the R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Service Professor and Professor of Physics, Emeritus. The Rochus E. Vogt Fellowship will support generations of Caltech graduate students in physics.

“Robbie Vogt’s influence on campus, JPL, and astrophysics was profound, and he deserves a lot of the credit for helping to get LIGO, the Keck Observatory, and millimeter-wave astronomy at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory established,” says Fiona Harrison, Caltech’s Benjamin M. Rosen Professor of Physics and holder of the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of the Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. Harrison is one of eight other donors to the fellowship fund.

“Much of what he did was behind the scenes,” adds Ed Stone, Caltech’s David Morrisroe Professor of Physics, who also contributed to the Vogt Fellowship. “He would get things started and then move on to the next exciting opportunity. He wanted to develop new capability.”

SLIDESHOW: Scientist, Leader, and Mentor

Lasting Recognition

To initiate the Vogt Fellowship, Thorne gave his Nobel Prize winnings, after expenses, to Break Through: The Caltech Campaign. Funds to complete the fellowship endowment came from two other sources: a generous matching program provided by Dennis and Carol Troesh and family, and a group of Caltech faculty and Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy Chair’s Council members who were inspired to leverage the matching challenge.

Fellowships like this are tremendously important for Caltech and our students,” Thorne says. “They give PhD students the freedom to focus their energy on studies and research. Having that support go on forever in Robbie’s name is a concrete, lasting acknowledgment, which is important to me personally because of my deep gratitude for all he has done.”


Learn more about supporting graduate students at Caltech.