Ata Sarajedini, Ph.D., Installed as Inaugural Bjorn Lamborn Endowed Chair in Astrophysics


The Department of Physics in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science was the recipient of a $1.1 million gift to establish The Bjorn Lamborn Endowed Chair in Astrophysics. The endowed chair position was bequeathed from former faculty member  Bjorn Lamborn, a keystone faculty member in the College of Science.

Lamborn’s philanthropic dream came to fruition on July 1, 2020, with the installation of Ata Sarajedini, Ph.D., as the inaugural chair holder of the Bjorn Lamborn Endowed Chair in Astrophysics. The installation was presented by University Provost, Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D.; Danita Nias, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and CEO of the FAU Foundation; and Teresa Wilcox, Ph.D., Interim Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. The establishment of the endowed chair position celebrated the legacy of a visionary man Bjorn Lamborn, Ph.D. In attendance were Bjorn Lamborn’s sister, Ingrid Bortner, her children, Birgitta Williamson and Bret Bortner, and her family from Sweden. In addition, Schmidt College of Science leadership, department chairs, The College of Science Advisory Board members, faculty, and friends of the University were in attendance for the ceremony.

Endowed Chairs can be the lifeblood of an institution. They enable professors to start or continue research projects that might not otherwise be possible and endowed chairs allow institutions to attract top talent. Most importantly, an endowed chair will continue in perpetuity. The Bjorn Lamborn name will be synonymous with plasma physics and astrophysics at FAU forever. 

Luc Wille, Chair of the Department of Physics and professor, shares, "Bjorn was a visionary leader, a brilliant researcher, and a true humanitarian. In the mid 1980's he was the driving force behind the establishment of FAU's doctoral program in physics, putting together a compelling case and assembling a world class team of researchers. I had the good fortune of being hired during that expansion and witnessed first-hand Bjorn's ability to lead by example and to inspire others to greatness. In retirement, he still cared deeply about FAU  and the physics department. He visited frequently and was always willing to help with wise advice and insightful counsel. His generosity in establishing an endowed chair was characteristic of his devotion to the university. It gives me great pleasure that the Lamborn name will live on for generations to come."

Florida Atlantic University, the Schmidt College of Science, and the Department of Physics cannot begin to thank Bjorn Lamborn for his vision and his philanthropy. Our students will be impacted forever by his foresight and his generosity and the College of Science’s Department of Physics will open a new area of curriculum and research in astrophysics that would not have been possible without Dr. Lamborn’s incredible generosity.

The inaugural Lamborn Chair, Ata Sarajedini, Ph.D., is an expert in the field of astrophysics and has held numerous leadership positions in academia. He has served as the Dean of the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science for the last three and a half years. Before coming to FAU in January of 2017, he served as Associate Dean for Natural Sciences and Mathematics as well as Associate Dean for Research in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida. He was Associate Chair and Acting Chair of the Department of Astronomy. After receiving his Ph.D. in Astronomy at Yale in 1992, he spent seven years as a postdoctoral researcher and a Hubble Fellow at Kitt Peak National Observatory and San Francisco State University, among other research and leadership positions in higher education.  Ata’s research is focused on resolved stellar populations in Local Group galaxies. These include field stars, open and globular clusters in the Milky Way, M31, M33, the Magellanic Clouds, and the numerous nearby dwarf galaxies. Sarajedini discusses his research, “When we resolve individual stars in these systems, we can apply our knowledge of star formation and stellar evolution to understanding the process of galaxy formation and evolution.” 

Sarajedini states, "It is my distinct honor to be appointed as the inaugural holder of the Bjorn Lamborn Endowed Chair in Astrophysics. I am excited to accept the position and begin working on a variety of initiatives related to astrophysics in the Department of Physics at FAU."

Bjorn’s family should be proud of all that Bjorn Lamborn accomplished here at Florida Atlantic University. He was an incredible educator and a visionary man. We are grateful to him and the legacy that he leaves to our University.

Bjorn Lamborn, Ph.D., was a generous educator who understood the powerful impact of philanthropy on the lives of others, especially here at FAU. Lamborn’s first gift to the University was in 1974, then donating consecutively each year for more than 25 years. Eventually, Lamborn became the establishing donor for an Excellence in Physics Scholarship and The Bjorn Lamborn Endowment for Scholarships in Physics to help undergraduate physics students who are seeking a doctoral degree in theoretical physics.

At the age of 22, Bjorn Lamborn completed his doctorate degree in theoretical plasma physics at the University of Florida, making him the youngest Ph.D. in plasma physics in the world. He knew early on what he wanted to do in this world.

Lamborn’s history with the University begins in 1965, when he came to Florida Atlantic University and where he would spend the rest of his career. He was instrumental in the approval of the Ph.D. program in physics at FAU in 1988 and oversaw its implementation.

Eventually becoming the Associate Dean of operations in the College of Science. Retiring in 2001, Dr. Lamborn was bestowed with the title of Emeritus Professor in 2002.