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Award Winners: Women in Planetary Science

July 3, 2014

Amelia Earhart Fellowship (Zonta)
Congratulations to Tanya Harrison! She is just one of 35 women, and the only planetary scientist this year, to be selected as a 2014 Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellow.  Tonya is a graduate student at the University of Western Ontario and studies mass movement processes – landslides – on Earth and Mars. In particular, she is interested in martian geomorphology and terrestrial analogues, spectroscopy, and glaciology; her PhD advisors are Dr. Gordon Osinski and Dr. Livio Tornabene. Previously, Tonya was a member of the science operations team for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) Context Camera (CTX) and Mars Color Imager (MARCI) at Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS).  While working at MSSS, Tanya was interviewed by Susan Niebur in 2010. Tanya is also a professional photographer.

A long-lasting urban legend is that planetary scientists aren’t eligible for the AE Fellowship, but this is certainly not the case. When asked why she applied for this fellowship, Tanya replied that she was encouraged by another planetary scientist, Nina Lanza, who previously received the fellowship. “I didn’t think that my work fit what they were looking for since I’m technically neither an engineer nor in aerospace … I applied for the fellowship last year and didn’t receive it… This year I proposed a different project and had a 4.0 GPA in my Ph.D. program. Oddly enough the proposal I wrote this year was much less engineering-related than last year, but my career goals were the same – becoming the principal investigator (PI) of an instrument aboard a planetary mission – so I think the stronger GPA had a lot to do with their decision.”

The odds are good, ladies! This year, 168 women applied and 35 fellowships were awarded.  (Over 980 fellowships have been awarded in its 75-year history.) Dr. Sharon Langenbeck, Chairman of the Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship Committee, told me that there was an unusually high number of applicants this year; normally the number is around 125.  So, go for it! Application information can be found here, and the deadline for next year’s awards is mid-November.

Are you an Amelia Earhart Fellow? If so, comment below with your name, year, and research area. You may also be interested in the AE Fellow LinkedIn Group.


Harold Masursky Award (Division of Planetary Science)
Congratulations to Dr. Athena Coustenis, who was recognized for her for outstanding service to planetary science and exploration. From the DPS announcement: “More than any other member of our community, Dr. Coustenis contributed to promoting and facilitating international collaboration in planetary science. Athena has played a major role in organizing the dissemination of scientific results at international conferences, including those of the European Geophysical Union, the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society, the DPS/AAS, the European Planetary Science Congress, as well as the AGU Goldschmidt conferences and the International Planetary Probe workshops. She has rendered outstanding service to the international planetary science community through a combination of managerial, leadership, programmatic, and public service activities. Dr. Coustenis is currently Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France, and an astrophysicist with the Laboratoire d’Etudes Spatiales et d’Instrumentation en Astrophysique (LESIA) of Paris Observatory, France.”

The 2014 DPS prizes will be presented at the 46th annual DPS meeting in Tucson, Arizona, in November.  Nominations for the next round of DPS awards will be due in June 2015.

WIPS Role Models Needed for Carnegie STEM Girls Initiative

June 26, 2014

The Carnegie STEM Girls initiative *desperately* needs women planetary scientist role models for their “outer space” theme!

Please circulate their request:
Carnegie STEM Girls initiative is looking for female STEM professionals to showcase in their “Livin’ It!” section at their site, designed to inspire tween and teen girls to see themselves in STEM careers. This site features profiles of women who are involved STEM fields, and answers some basic questions girls may have such as, “What’s a typical day like?” or “How do I start preparing now?”

To be featured as a role model, simply fill out this form <>, and send a photo of yourself. Here is an example of a role model profile:

Dr. Nicolle Zellner: Our scientific training makes us valuable

June 15, 2014

Interview with Dr. Nicolle Zellner

Nicolle.Zellner.2012.headshotDr. Zellner’s research involves understanding the impact history of the Earth-Moon system. She studies the geochemical and chronological information obtained from lunar impact glasses in order to understand how many impact events the lunar surface has suffered. This information can then be applied to understanding the impact rate in the Solar System in general, as well as how impact events may have affected life’s origin and evolution on Earth in particular. She is also interested in understanding how biomolecules are transferred among planetary bodies, such as via comet or asteroid impacts, and how their chemistry may change in an impact event.

Read more…

Congratulations to new (and not so new) Graduates!

June 1, 2014

Dear WIPS Blog Readers,

The last time we had a graduation celebration post was back in May of 2011, so we are long overdue for a new one.  Here are graduates (both PhD and Masters as a final degree) from the last few years.

Thanks to all of those who contributed to this list – special thanks to Lilian Ostrach for going above and beyond to find names and thesis titles :).

 Congratulations graduates! 

Read more…

Advice to Students: Preparing for Your Career

May 26, 2014

[guest post by Ingrid Daubar]

A few days ago, incoming graduate student Alessondra Springmann asked a great question of the Young Scientists for Planetary Exploration Facebook group:

What things did you do in grad school (aside from research and classes and conferences) that best prepared you for postdocs and your career?”

Many people chimed in with excellent advice that is widely applicable, so we decided to compile it for posterity. Add your own tips in the comments!

One of the common themes was that as students, you should be thinking about your long- term goals, and build skills that will be useful for your ideal position. For example, if you are interested in teaching, get experience writing and giving lectures, not just grading homework. If you plan on being a scientist, start thinking of yourself as a scientist now – don’t just do research, but also write proposals and review papers. If you see yourself heading in an academic or administrative direction, get positions that will give you insight into how university bureaucracies function such as grad student representative or student government. Think about ways you can develop skills that could also work in an industry or private sector position. Practice speaking in public, which will be useful in almost any position. Read more…

The Confidence Gap – Excellent Summary

April 17, 2014

In the last few years the number of research articles/books/popular articles about women in traditionally male dominated fields (science, leadership in large companies, etc.) has been on the rise – it has become a hot topic!

Every journal and magazine seems to want to publish on this topic.  Some pieces are more sensational or more anecdotal than others, but I am always looking for good summaries of related research.  The following article in the Atlantic mentions many of the topics that I have seen swirling around the women in science world lately, so I thought I would pass it on.

(It is a bit long, but well worth the read – I might even suggest reading it in sections, there is a lot of info to absorb!)


The authors are Claire Shipman, a reporter for ABC News, and Katty Kay, the anchor of BBC World News America. In two decades of covering American politics, they have interviewed some of the most influential women in the nation. They were surprised to discover the extent to which these women suffered from self-doubt, which inspired them to research and write their book:



Planetary Meeting Travel Grants (PhD students)

April 11, 2014

Uwinga will award 10-15 travel grants, up to $1500 each, to graduate students studying planetary science and/or exoplanets and completing their PhDs in 2014.

Applications are due no later than  April 30, 2014, and you can find the application form here


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