Scientific honors, presidential recognition and innovation start the new year right

Jan 10, 2014. Have you reached a milestone, received an award or conquered the world (at least your little corner of it) lately? Let us know at torch@si.edu. We want to toot your horn for you! Be sure to include your contact information and a picture as an attachment.

AAAS Fellows

Four Smithsonian scientists have been awarded the distinction of Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They have been elevated to this rank because of their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished. The names of all 388 AAAS fellows for 2013 were announced in the Nov. 29 issue of Science.

The four Smithsonian honorees are:

  • Helen James, zoologist at the National Museum of Natural History, for contributions to avian evolution, paleontology, and conservation, particularly for insights into the history of human-induced changes to Pacific Island ecosystems.
  • Peter Marra, ecologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, for contributions to migration and conservation biology, particularly by employing innovative technology to establish migratory connectivity between breeding and wintering ranges of birds.
  • Stephen Murray, astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, for innovative contributions to high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy and for founding the Astrophysics Data System that has transformed the way people access information.
  • Matthew Tocheri, anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History, for contributions to the study of comparative anatomy and human evolution, particularly the evolution of the wrist.

Secretary’s Awards for Excellence

The recipients of the fifth annual Secretary’s Awards for Excellence were honored for their special achievements in collaboration, innovation, spirit and contributions to the digital enterprise.

  • Kelly Chance, Senior Physicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, received the Innovative Spirit Award for his work on Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, which was selected as NASA’s first Earth Venture Instrument. Kelly’s innovative thinking and ability to lead a collaborative effort among various agencies were critical in the creation of TEMPO, which will deliver near-real-time air-quality products to the public and engage colleges in air-quality research and K-12 students in Earth Science Curriculum development.
  • Artis Strong, Utilities System Repair Operator at the Office of Facilities Management and Reliability, received the Spirit of the Smithsonian Award for his hard work, helpfulness and commitment to his colleagues and the Smithsonian. He often serves as a mentor and provides support above and beyond his regular duties. He continues to stay on top of technology, providing unparalleled customer service, and eagerly takes on any assignment, seeing it through to completion. The dedication and work ethic that Artis continually demonstrates are an inspiration to everyone.
  • The Steering Committee of the Pan-Smithsonian Cyro-Initiative received the Collaborative Spirit Award for its successful efforts in harmonizing the care, management and use of the Smithsonian’s priceless frozen biological collections. The team launched a Smithsonian-wide inventory of frozen samples, estimated how many samples would be added to collections in the next 10 years, and is consolidating the specimen data into the first Institution-wide database of scientific collection data. This collaboration resulted in the Institution becoming a resource in nonhuman bio-collections and a leader in the complex field of cryobiology.  Steering Committee members are Carol Butler (NMNH), Pierre Comizzoli (NZP, Chair), Laura Morse (NZP), Oris Sanjur (STRI) and Lee Weigt (NMNH).
  • The Smithsonian Civil War Book Team also received the Collaborative Spirit Award for its work on the book Smithsonian Civil War:  Inside the National Collection, which showcases objects from 13 Smithsonian entities. Through its collaborative efforts, the team advanced the Smithsonian’s research on its Civil War collections and shared those collections with the public in a manner never possible before.  Their collaboration also led to the Smithsonian Channel’s Civil War 360 and the Smithsonian magazine launch of smithsoniancivilwar.com— now a thriving gateway to all things Civil War at the Smithsonian. The team is chaired by Michelle Delaney (OUSHAC), led by Carolyn Gleason (SE) and Jennifer Jones (NMAH), and consists of more than 50 Smithsonian employees.
  • Adam Metallo and Vincent Rossi, with OCIO’s Digitization Program Office, received the Award for Contributions to the Digital Smithsonian for their development of the Smithsonian 3D Charter Collection which shows 3D digitization’s usefulness and importance to museums and other cultural institutions.  Through their efforts, the 3D collection has established the Smithsonian as a leader in 3D digitization.
  • Barbara Aikens, Chief of Collections processing, and Karen Weiss, Information Resources Manager, both with the Archives of American Art, also received the Award for Contributions to the Digital Smithsonian for creating a virtual repository for the study of the visual arts of the United States. Their effort to explore, develop, and implement innovative approaches to digitization has revolutionized research in the field of art history, providing free online access to a vast cross-section of the Archives’ resources.

Office of Development

The Smithsonian’s 2012 Annual Report has won two Accolade Awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (District II). “Questions Come Alive,” created by the Office of Development won gold in both the print and digital categories for annual or institutional reports.

Among the judges’ comments:

  • “A first-rate publication. Very elegant, distinguished feel (from writing to design to production).”
  • “Excellent blend of creative photography and text. Effective use of ‘questions’ as a device to lead the reader through the book. Extremely tight and consistent look and feel throughout. This is an institution that knows what it is and knows its audience.”

Kudos to Jason Peevey, Bill Tabor,  Lisa Sherman and the entire Advancement team for their hard work. CASE District II will acknowledge the achievement at its annual conference in Baltimore Feb. 9-11, 2014, at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. A full list of winners is available online.


Presidential Early Career Award

President Barack Obama has named Rossman P. Irwin III, a geologist at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, a recipient of the 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Irwin, a staff member in the museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, was recognized for his research in the role of water in shaping the landscape of Mars.

The three most significant findings by Irwin and his colleagues include evidence of complex climate change on Mars, river channels that are similar in size to those found on Earth, and Martian lakes that overflowed to produce large floods. The research suggests a variable change in climate rather than a simple decline.

Ross Irwin

Ross Irwin

Irwin joined the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies as a staff geologist in 2012. The department performs original research and outreach activities on planetary science, terrestrial geophysics and the remote sensing of environmental change. Its scope of study includes work on Mercury, Venus, the moon, Mars, asteroids and some satellites of the outer solar system, as well as corresponding field studies in analog regions on Earth.

After receiving his doctorate from the University of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Sciences in 2005, Irwin completed a post-doctoral appointment at the Smithsonian in 2010. From 2010 to 2012, he worked for the Planetary Science Institute as a visiting scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He received a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1997 and a master’s in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 2000.

Along with 97 other federal researchers, Irwin will receive his award in a ceremony early in 2014. The program is coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education or community outreach.

Posted: 10 January 2014
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