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The Astronomical Society of the Pacific Announces 2013 Award Recipients in Astronomy Research and Education

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), one the largest and most innovative astronomy and science education organizations in the U.S., is proud to announce the recipients of its 2013 awards for excellence in astronomy research and education. The awards will be formally presented at an ASP Banquet on July 23 in San Jose, CA as part of ASP’s Annual Meeting.

More information about the ASP’’s awards and past recipients can be found here.

Gregg L. Williams

Thomas J. Brennan Award for exceptional achievement related to the teaching of astronomy at the high school level, is awarded to Mr. Gregg L. Williams. Williams has served as planetarium director for Indiana’s Merrillville Community School for 30 years, and has made a point of including everyone he can in the production and presentation of planetarium shows. The planetarium is staffed by his students who are members of the astronomy club Williams sponsors. He invites other teachers to become familiar with the production of shows specific to their subject matter, including art and history. In addition to teaching technicalities of running an engaging and real-time planetarium show, he also engages students in the classroom. When he began teaching in 1984, he developed his own astronomy course materials, and in 2001 his teaching expanded to science courses taught in his planetarium. Williams, a member of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) for 30 years, regularly hosts astronomy conferences, and engages the public in stargazing after planetarium shows.

Dr. Charles Tolbert

Richard H. Emmons Award for excellence in college astronomy teaching is awarded to Dr. Charles Tolbert. Tolbert has been a professor at the University of Virginia for more than 40 years, teaching one of the largest and most popular science courses on campus. Tolbert brings astronomy to life for students who otherwise may not be exposed to it. During his 46-year career, he has served as Education Officer of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) for six years, chaired the committee on Physics Education for the American Institute for Physics for three years, and has been actively involved in the Board of Control for the Piedmont Regional Education Program for Special Education. Tolbert also runs tours and astronomy programs at the McCormic Observatory at the University of Virginia for school and education groups.

Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway

Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy is awarded to Dr. Mary Kay Hemenway. Hemenway, recently retired director of educational services in the department of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, has dedicated her career to diverse areas of astronomy education, from professional development programs for teachers to education oversight. She has led hundreds of NASA and NSF funded workshops for teachers in numerous locations across the country, including the McDonald Observatory at the University of Texas. Hemenway was in also charge of operating the American Astronomical Society’s Resource Agent program, which provides astronomy materials to K-12 teachers and has reached 215 teachers in 45 states. Through her work, Hemenway has changed how astronomy is taught at the university level. She also served on the board of directors for the ASP, as the Education Officer in the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and is a past member of the Astronomy Education Review editorial board.

Chuck Bueter

Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award for outstanding outreach by an amateur astronomer to children and the public is awarded to Mr. Chuck Bueter. Bueter, independent informal education professional in South Bend, Indiana, was instrumental in the popularization of astronomy at summer camps as well as diverse astronomy events in the area, and garnered national attention through his programs and website. He has volunteered with Kids Astro Camp at Camp Eberhart in Indiana since 2003, where his enthusiasm for astronomy has helped introduce astronomy to children of all ages. Most recently, his passion for astronomy culminated with the Transit of Venus in 2012, where he orchestrated dozens events in preparation for the event. His efforts resulted in thousands of children and adults viewing the transit with excitement, and became the cover story of the March 2012 issue of Planetarian, the journal of the International Planetarium Society. He also worked with a local planetarium director to organize a program called “Let There be Night,” during which more than 3,000 student from 14 schools learned about the problems of light pollution from hands-on research and activities.

Dr. Gurtina Besla

Robert J. Trumpler Award for a recent Ph.D. thesis considered unusually important to astronomy is awarded to Dr. Gurtina Besla. Besla earned her PhD at Harvard University and authored the dissertation, “Are the Magellanic Clouds on Their First Passage about the Milky Way?” which asserts a new theory about the origin and history of these clouds. Magellanic clouds have been long believed to be orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy for billions of years. However, Besla’s research suggests that the clouds’ role in relation to the Milky Way is unclear, and that this is the first time they have approached the galaxy, sparking wider research on the idea. Besla has gone on to analyze how this idea affects surrounding celestial bodies and other theories concerning the creation of the galaxy. Her paper has already been cited more than 150 times, and her continued research provides more insights into astrophysics questions.

About the ASP

Founded in 1889 in San Francisco, the ASP fosters science literacy through astronomy by serving professionals, educators and amateurs around the world, and engaging and inspiring current and future generations. The ASP publishes both scholarly and educational materials, conducts professional development programs for formal and informal educators, and holds conferences, symposia and workshops for astronomers and educators specializing in education and public outreach. The ASP’s programs are funded by corporations, private foundations, the National Science Foundation, NASA, private donors, and its own members.