News from the Department (2021)

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March 2021

  • Congratulations to Sam Crossely for winning a 2021 Career Development Award from the LPI! Sam is a PhD student in Geology where Dr. Jessica Sunshine is his co-advisor. The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) made ten awards this year to graduate students who submitted a first-author abstract to present at the virtual 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). The awards are based on a review of the abstract and application materials by a panel of planetary scientists and, recognition aside, help cover the recipients' LPSC registration fee.

February 2021

  • The first A'Hearn Lecturer will be Dr. Alan Stern, noted Pluto explorer as New Horizons PI, among many other accomplishments. Dr. Stern will visit in the Fall, when he will be able to make an actual visit and interact with us. Many thanks to Jessica Sunshine, Gerbs Bauer, Derek Richardson, and Doug Hamilton for serving on the committee to select and invite the Lecturers.
    The A'Hearn Endowed Lectureship was seeded by Dr. Ralph Pass, who earned his Ph.D. in Math at UMD in 1978. His gift honors Mike as one of two faculty who influenced him here. Dr. Pass' gift is for an annual prize lecture on the topic of planetary astronomy; we are starting with a prize colloquium, with a transition to an annual lecture with national reach as the endowment grows. Whatever the venue, an annual lecture is a wonderful way to remind us and the broader community of Mike's influence as a scientist and human being, and we are very grateful to Dr. Pass for his generous gift. We are seeking other contributions, big and small, to reach the full $100,000 target for the endowment.
  • UMD Astronomy was very present in the latest round of SOFIA project awards, with a total of 8 projects selected. UMD PIs are Alberto Bolatto, Sylvain Veilleux, Xander Tielens, Miguel Requena Torres, Maitraiyee Tiwari, Laura Lenkic, and John Carr, using GREAT, HAWC+, EXES. and FIFI-LS. Many of these projects involve grad student or postdoc involvement. In addition, Adjunct Prof. David Neufeld (JHU) won an EXES project. Congratulations to all!
  • Research Corporation for Science Advancement has named 25 outstanding teacher-scholars in chemistry, physics, and astronomy as recipients of its 2021 Cottrell Scholar Awards. One is Dr. Laura Blecha, now physics faculty at the University of Florida, whose proposal was titled "The Making of a Gravitational Wave Source: Probing the Role of Galaxy Assembly in Black Hole Binary and Triple Formation." Laura was an Einstein Postdoctoral Fellow with us as a JSI Fellow from 2012 - 2015. Recipients are chosen through a rigorous peer-review process of applications from top research universities, degree-granting research institutes, and primarily undergraduate institutions in the United States and Canada. Their award proposals incorporate both science education and research. Each award is $100,000.
  • In a Mashable article "Is it aliens? Here's why it's hard to know for sure." Dr. Marc Neveu discusses types of evidence scientists search for when looking for life.
  • Dr. Quanzhi Ye is quoted in the cnet article China's Tianwen-1 Mars mission is arriving at the red planet: What you need to know.
  • In their recent newsletter, Physics featured alum Alan Henry (B.S. '02 Physics; B.S. '02 Astronomy) who went on to become a tech writer. The article Making the Very Difficult to Understand Easy to Understand describes his time at UMD and how he became a writer at Wired and who also worked for PC Magazine, Lifehacker, and even The New York Times.
  • Rebecca Levy has been selected for one of the fewer than 10 NSF Astronomy & Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowships this year. She will take this fellowship to the University of Arizona.
    The research component is titled "A Multiscale View of the Effects of Stellar Feedback in the Local Universe." The projects comprise observational studies of the effects of stellar feedback on the gas in galaxies, spanning from sub-pc scales in the central starburst of NGC253, to kpc scales in star-forming disk galaxies, to the galaxy-scale outflow in M82. This fellowship is unique in that it also has a "Broader Impacts" component, in addition to the research component. For that, she will adapt the Colors of Nature program, which uses STEAM education to develop middle-school students' identities as scientists, to be a weekly after-school program on the Tohono O'odham Nation (on whose land Kitt Peak National Observatory is built). Very impressive all around -- congratulations, Becca!
  • Our recent graduate Pradip Gatkine was selected for a Hubble Fellowship this year. Even better, he can accept it and stay at Caltech, where he also has a prize postdoc. The competition was very stiff: apparently 406 applications for 24 slots. Congratulations Pradip! This is also a good time to congratulate our department members who have earned these Fellowships -- quite a mark of distinction.
  • Many congratulations to Dr. Richard Mushotzky, who has been elected as a 2021 AAS Fellow by the AAS Board of Trustees. Richard was recognized for his leadership in the data analysis, modeling, and theoretical interpretation of x-ray and multi-wavelength imaging, timing, and spectroscopic data on the physics of black hole accretion, the evolution of the elements, and cosmology. Richard joins fellow Fellows Drake and Grace Deming, Peter Teuben, and Gerry Share, who were elected last year as AAS Legacy Fellows. Congratulations again to Richard and all!

January 2021

Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science & Technology II    Joint Space-Science Center    Two intriguing investigations -- One flight-proven spacecraft    UMd Astronomy-Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Partnership    UMd Astronomy-Cote d'Azur Observatory Scientific Cooperation and Academic Exchange