AAS Division For Planetary Sciences Announces 2015 Prize Winners

21 August 2015

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The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce its 2015 prize winners.

Gerard P. Kuiper Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of planetary science: Dr. Yuk Yung (Caltech) has made numerous enduring contributions to planetary science, particularly in the areas of atmospheric photochemistry, global climate change, radiative transfer, atmospheric evolution, and planetary habitability. His unique integration of observations, laboratory data, and quantitative modeling has yielded pioneering insights into the characterization, origin, and evolution of atmospheres in the solar system. His models of the chemistry of planetary atmospheres, developed through basic research, have been widely used to interpret results from spacecraft missions, including the Vikings, Voyagers, Pioneer Venus, Galileo, Venus Express, Cassini, Mars Science Laboratory, and New Horizons. Dr. Yung is Smits Family Professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from University of California, Berkeley, in 1969 and his doctoral degree in physics from Harvard University in 1974.

Harold C. Urey Prize for outstanding achievement in planetary research by a young scientist: Dr. Geronimo Luis Villanueva (Catholic University of America, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) has demonstrated exceptional capability and versatility in addressing scientific challenges in the planetary sciences. He was instrumental in the design and development of the high-resolution submillimeter heterodyne spectrometer for the SOFIA airborne observatory. He then moved into observational astronomy, making seminal contributions across the field of cometary science, including observations, data processing and analysis, and modeling and Monte Carlo simulations. Geronimo obtained the first measurement of the deuterium-to-hydrogen (D/H) ratio in water in a periodic comet, created algorithms to model cometary fluorescence emission incorporating large databases for H2O and HDO, and developed quantum-mechanical models for infrared bands. Turning to Mars, Geronimo conducted a multiyear multi-telescope observing campaign to chart the composition of the Martian atmosphere, including its seasonal variability as well as a quantitative assessment of Mars’s early water abundance. For his work with comets and with Mars’s atmosphere, Geronimo is recognized as one of the best young spectroscopists of his generation. Dr. Villanueva is currently a Research Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of America, in residence at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Universidad Mendoza, Argentina. He received his master’s degree from Clausthal Technical University, Germany, in 2003, and his Ph.D. from the University of Freiburg, Germany, in 2004.

Harold Masursky Award for outstanding service to planetary science and exploration: Dr. Christina Richey (NASA Headquarters & Smart Data Solutions, LLC) has made significant contributions to fostering equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in planetary science in the spirit of the Harold Masursky award. Christina’s willingness to go far above and beyond the call of her regular work duties on these issues helps our planetary community become more open, diverse, and accepting. Much of her focus has been on education about the effects of harassment. She addresses anti-harassment policies at conferences; pushes for post-doc harassment training; ensures that key community leaders show support for all within the planetary sciences; helps distribute materials used by institutions to develop anti-harassment policies; and personally assists community members dealing with harassment issues. In addition to her anti-harassment work, she tackles broader issues that impact the most vulnerable members within our planetary-science community. She participates in mentoring workshops for early-career scientists as well as workshops on alternative careers. Dr. Richey is active in the Women in Planetary Science Group, is chair of the AAS’s Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA), and is an influential participant in the Women in Astronomy blog. Dr. Richey is currently a cross-divisional program officer at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C., as well as the Deputy Program Scientist for the OSIRIS-REx mission. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics from Wheeling Jesuit University, West Virginia, in 2004, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public: Dr. Dan Durda (Southwest Research Institute) has consistently communicated with the public about the wonders of exploring new worlds via the written word, the spoken word, and visual artistry. Dan writes for popular astronomy magazines such as Sky & Telescope and Mercury and authors columns, articles, and blogs for the public. As a natural extension of his compelling writing, Dan is sought as a planetary science spokesperson, both for lectures and on TV. His science addresses impacts and impact processes at many scales; thus he has become a requested media commentator on catastrophic asteroid impacts. The artistic dimension of Durda’s public outreach, however, sets him in a class apart. His art derives from a healthy dose of scientific knowledge, though, as Dan says, “I’m not afraid to loosen the reins at times.” His paintings and digital art present scientifically grounded depictions of solar-system objects as well as alien worlds. Dr. Durda is currently a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. He earned his bachelor’s degree in astronomy from the University of Michigan in 1987 and his master’s and doctoral degrees in astronomy from the University of Florida in 1989 and 1993, respectively.

Jonathan Eberhart Planetary Sciences Journalism Award to recognize and stimulate distinguished popular writing on planetary sciences: Stephen Battersby is a freelance science journalist and ex-astrophysicist who has written about such diverse subjects as giant black holes and small bogs, the end of time and the nature of slime — but he has a particular fondness for icy moons. He writes regularly for New Scientist magazine, and his work has also appeared in Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Current Science, and Discover. Recently he has been writing reports and articles for business, covering climate change, renewable energy, and adaptation. Battersby has been a features editor at New Scientist and a News & Views editor at Nature. He has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Oxford University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Imperial College, London. In his winning entry, “Splash of the Titans,” in the 24 May 2014 issue of New Scientist, Battersby explores methane tides on the icy seashores of Saturn’s largest moon through the radar eyes of the Cassini spacecraft. The discovery of methane seas hiding under the orange haze on Titan ranks among the most fascinating chapters in the exploration of our solar system.

The 2015 DPS prizes will be presented at the 47th annual DPS meeting in National Harbor, Maryland, 8-13 November 2015 [http://aas.org/meetings/dps47].

Dr. Vishnu Reddy
DPS Press Officer
+1 808-342-8932
[email protected]

Dr. Bonnie Buratti
DPS Chair
+1 818-468-1401
[email protected]

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