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The Astronomical Society of the Pacific Announces Its 2016 Award Recipients For Astronomy Research And Education

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), one of the oldest, innovative, and respected organizations in the U.S. dedicated to increasing the understanding and teaching of astronomy, is proud to announce the recipients of its 2016 awards for excellence in astronomy research and education.

The awards will be formally presented at an ASP Awards Ceremony and Banquet on October 22, 2016 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Burlingame, CA.

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

Ian McLean

Prof. Ian McLean

The Maria and Eric Muhlmann Award recognizes recent significant observational results made possible by innovative advances in astronomical instrumentation, software, or observational infrastructure. The 2016 recipients of the Muhlmann Award are Prof. Ian McLean (University of California Los Angeles) and Prof. Charles ‘Chuck’ Steidel (California Institute of Technology) for their roles as Co-Principal Investigators on the Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infrared Exploration (MOSFIRE) imager, a revolutionary low-resolution multi-object near-infrared spectrograph on the Keck 10-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawai‘i.

Charles ‘Chuck’ Steidel

Prof. Charles ‘Chuck’ Steidel

MOSFIRE is ideally suited for studying galaxy clusters at moderate redshift, and the initial results of large surveys using this instrument are fundamentally changing our understanding of these galaxy clusters. The increase in the number of objects that can be studied simultaneously, and the significantly improved sensitivity over previous instruments, is transformative for the study of faint, moderate-redshift galaxies.

Prof. McLean was responsible for the design and construction of the instrument in his laboratory at UCLA. Prof. Steidel provided much of the scientific motivation and case for MOSFIRE and is using it to lead the Keck Baryonic Structure Survey, which is designed to investigate the interchange of baryons between galaxies and the intergalactic medium in the redshift range 1.8<z<3.0, corresponding to the peak of cosmic star formation. MOSFIRE also enables other investigations of the stellar populations, dust content, and physical conditions within the interstellar medium of typical star-forming galaxies at these epochs.

Chris Impey

Dr. Chris Impey (Image credit: Jeff Smith/University of Arizona)

Awarded to an individual or individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, the Klumpke-Roberts Award for 2016 goes to Dr. Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Associate Dean at the University of Arizona College of Science. For more than 27 years Dr. Impey has been successfully popularizing science via his classes at the university, public talks, articles, and books. He has written numerous popular science books plus two introductory textbooks for college-level astronomy that have sold more than 100,000 copies. His courses have been recognized for their innovative style and approach to making science accessible to the students.

Dr. Impey has pioneered the teaching of massive open online classes (MOOCs) that reach thousands of students around the world. His YouTube channel supports astronomy video content with more than 500 subscribers and more than a million views. His mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students has produced a generation of inquisitive young astronomers. In 2008, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific presented Dr. Impey with the Richard H. Emmons Award for excellence in college astronomy teaching.

Dr. Caitlin M. Casey (Assistant Professor, U. of Texas at Austin) writes: “Chris has dedicated much of his career to the public understanding of astronomy, not least due to his outstanding teaching record, authorship of several popularized astronomy books and introductory astronomy textbooks, [and] giant online presence, but also his infectious enthusiasm for science and dedication to sharing it with everyone.”

Rachael L. Beaton

Dr. Rachael L. Beaton

The Robert J. Trumpler Award is presented to a recent recipient of a PhD degree in North America whose research is considered unusually important to astronomy. The 2016 Trumpler Award is given to Dr. Rachael L. Beaton, who completed her PhD in December of 2014 at the University of Virginia. Dr. Beaton’s research has focused on “near-field cosmology,” revealing how the structure and evolution of nearby galaxies can provide insight into cosmological processes.

Her work has fundamentally contributed to our understanding of stellar populations and galaxy dynamics in the Local Group of galaxies. She is best known for her research on the Andromeda galaxy (Messier 31), including the discovery and characterization of M31’s central bar through near-infrared imaging. This provided key information on the dynamics of a galaxy considered to be the closest sibling of the Milky Way. Dr. Beaton also led the creation of an extensive photometric catalog upon which all papers in the SPLASH (Spectroscopic and Photometric Landscape of Andromeda’s Stellar Halo) collaboration have depended.

As her more than 30 refereed publications and 1,200 citations attest, the breadth of Dr. Beaton’s work is extraordinary. Dr. Beaton also has a deep commitment to teaching and outreach, winning numerous accolades including the “All-University Graduate Teaching Award.” Collaborator Dr. Guhathakurta (Lick Observatory) writes, “Rachael is highly intelligent, creative, motivated, and extremely hard working. She is mature well beyond her years and is a first-rate researcher.”

Caroline Simpson

Dr. Caroline Simpson

The Richard H. Emmons Award — established by Jeanne and Allan Bishop in honor of her father, Richard Emmons, an astronomer with a life-long dedication to astronomy education — is awarded annually to an individual demonstrating outstanding achievement in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors. The 2016 recipient is Dr. Caroline Simpson, a Professor in the Department of Physics at Florida International University (FIU) where she has taught several large courses (with 150-plus students) to non-science majors each semester since1996.

Dr. Simpson is strongly interested in reforming science education and has incorporated the latest inquiry-driven pedagogical techniques into her classes, including collaborative learning methods, learning assistants, and laboratory activities. She was instrumental in helping develop a new student observatory for astronomy education — the Stocker AstroScience Center at FIU’s Modesto Maidique Campus.

Dr. Simpson was one of the developers and first instructors of FIU’s Great Ideas in Science course, a multidisciplinary science course for non-majors. She laid the foundation for an interactive course and helped spread instructional reform across the sciences, a challenge that required confronting faculty and their often lecture-driven instructional stances. She also led a skeptical department into online teaching by designing and teaching two introductory astronomy courses for non-majors. This enables FIU to reach a population of students who might not otherwise be able to take courses. Her excellence extends beyond the classroom to include being a strong advocate for students and instructional excellence at FIU.

Jacqueline Barge

Ms. Jacqueline Barge

The Thomas J. Brennan Award is given to an individual demonstrating excellence in the teaching of astronomy at the high school level in North America. Ms. Jacqueline Barge, a science teacher and planetarium program coordinator at the Walter Payton College Preparatory High School in Chicago, Illinois, is the recipient of the 2016 Brennan Award.

Jacqueline has spent her 25-year career in the Chicago Public Schools, working with students whose experience is with a night sky that gives no hint of the unimaginable vastness beyond the glow from city streetlights. Jackie has brought the universe into the hands of countless numbers of urban students by communicating the possibilities for exploring space using imaging software, databases, remote telescopes, apps, and other tools. It is easy to see her excellence as she motivates a group of students to do extracurricular research throughout the year and then takes them to the Jet Propulsion Lab in a culmination project with NASA/IPAC.

Whether she is with a visiting class of elementary students, teaching in one of her high school classes, or participating in a teacher training workshop, she always has wisdom to pass on. One of her supporters writes: “I have often thought that Jackie is so exceptional that she could work anywhere — a suburban district, a museum, or in a beautiful natural setting where the sky is clear. Apart from her considerable talents, I genuinely admire Jackie for the dedication as a public school teacher in a district in need of exceptional teachers.”

Gena Crook

Gena Crook

Established by Wayne Rosing and Dorothy Largay, the Las Cumbres Amateur Outreach Award honors outstanding educational outreach by an amateur astronomer to K-12 children and the interested lay public. The 2016 award is given to Gena Crook of the Von Braun Astronomical Society (VBAS) of Huntsville, Alabama, in recognition of her tireless efforts in promoting astronomy since 2001.

In addition to being a mathematics instructor at the University of Alabama Huntsville, Gena serves as the VBAS’s Director of Education and Programs and as a NASA Night Sky Network (NSN) Coordinator. She actively promotes and incorporates NSN materials into multiple presentations, including the more than 15 planetarium programs she has written. She has supported numerous VBAS outreach events in the local community such as International Observe the Moon Night at the US Space and Rocket Center, stargazing at Bridgestreet shopping center, Earth Day at Hayes Nature Preserve, and a campout at the Huntsville Madison County Botanical Garden. Gena is registered as an Astronomy Merit Badge Counselor with the Boy Scouts of America, and during the summer of 2012, she inspired young readers to go out and look at the stars by making presentations, on behalf of the VBAS, at eight regional libraries for their summer reading program.

About the ASP

Since its humble beginnings in 1889 as a membership society for professional and amateur astronomers, the ASP has evolved into one of the most recognized and well-respected nonprofit astronomy organizations in the country. The ASP is dedicated to bringing together professionals, amateurs, educators, and enthusiasts for the purpose of increasing the understanding of astronomy and improving how we teach that knowledge to others. Boasting a diverse portfolio of astronomy education initiatives funded by NASA and the NSF, professional research journals and publications, and annual awards designed to recognize the achievements of professional and amateur astronomers as well as the work done by formal and informal educators, the ASP is unique in its mission to foster science literacy through the wonder and excitement of astronomy. The ASP is headquartered in San Francisco, and is financially supported by donations, grants, corporate sponsorships, subscriptions, member dues, and retail sales.