Friends of Ohio State Astronomy and Astrophysics (FOSAA)

News from Ohio State Astronomy and CCAPP, May 2017

Our May 2017 event kicked off off the second year of the Friends of Ohio State Astronomy and Astrophysics. The Department of Astronomy and the Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (CCAPP) have had an extraordinary string of accomplishments to celebrate in 2016 and 2017.


Professor Laura Lopez was awarded the 2016 Annie Jump Cannon Award from the American Astronomical Society (AAS) ``for her contributions to understanding the birth-to-death cycle of stars in our galaxy.''

Emeritus Professor Andrew Gould was awarded the 2016 Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize from the AAS ``for his development of gravitational microlensing as an important tool for the discovery and characterization of exoplanets.''

Professor B. Scott Gaudi was one of six recipients (selected from nearly 3000 university faculty) of the 2016 Ohio State University Distinguished Scholar Award, recognizing his wide ranging of contributions to the study of extra-solar planets.

Professor Barbara Ryden was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for her ``distinguished contributions to the theory of galaxy formation and to astronomy education, especially through her superb astrophysics and cosmology textbooks for advanced students.''

Professor Richard Pogge's course From Planets to the Cosmos was named as one of the Best of 2016 courses on Apple's iTunes U.

Professor Adam Leroy was a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER grant, the NSF's highest award for early career faculty.

Professor Marc Pinsonneault was one of six recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Scholar Award, recognizing his position as one of the world's leading stellar evolution theorists.

Professor John Beacom was one of three theoretical physicists nationwide named a 2017 Distinguished Scholar by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, giving him a Fermilab affiliation and the same research opportunities and support as Fermilab scientists for the duration of the 2-year appointment.

Director of Computing Services David Will was one of 12 recipients (among more than 20,000 staff members) of the 2017 Distinguished Staff Award, recognizing his many years of extraordinary contributions to the Astronomy Department's teaching and research missions.

OSU Newark Professor of Physics and Astronomy Michael Stamatikos was awarded the Newark campus 2017 Faculty Service Award and the 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award, recognizing his outstanding teaching and contributions to public outreach.

Professor and Department Chair David Weinberg was named a Distinguished University Professor, Ohio State's highest faculty award, recognizing his accomplishments in research, teaching, and contributions to the university and national community.

We end faculty news on a sad note. Emeritus Professor Gary Steigman, who founded Ohio State's cosmology group when he joined the physics department in 1986, died unexpectedly in April 2017. Reporter Dennis Overbye wrote an obituary for the New York Times that beautifully captures Gary's adventurous spirit and his pioneering contributions to the field we now know as particle astrophysics.


Graduate students Michael Fausnaugh and Jonathan Brown were awarded dissertation-year Presidential Fellowships, the Graduate School's highest award for PhD candidates.

Benjamin Wibking was awarded a 3-year National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

Andres Salcedo was awarded a 4-year Department of Energy Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship.

Graduate student (and NSF Fellow) Steven Villanueva, president of the Ohio State chapter of Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanic and Native American Scientists (SACNAS), won the award for best oral presentation in Physics and Astronomy at the 2016 SACNAS conference, for the third straight year.

Undergraduates Grace Calhoun and Anna Voelker, mentored by CCAPP Outreach Coordinator and COSI Chief Scientist Paul Sutter, wrote, produced, and presented a show for the COSI planetarium. Voelker also used 3-d printing to develop a planetarium presentation accessible to the visually impaired.

Grace Calhoun organized a 2-day expedition of astronomy majors to the Green Bank Radio Observatory in West Virginia, together with Planetarium Director Wayne Schlingman.

The 2016 Allan Markowitz Award for exceptional achievement by a graduate student in observational astronomy was awarded jointly to Michael Fausnaugh and Thomas Holoien.

The David G. Price Fellowship for instrumentation was awarded to graduate student Carl Coker.

The Astronomy Department's five graduating PhDs are going on postdoctoral positions at top institutions across North America: Carl Coker to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Michael Fausnaugh to MIT, Tom Holoien to Carnegie Observatories, Dale Mudd to U.C. Irvine, and Wei Zhu to the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics.

The Department of Astronomy recruited a class of 10 incoming graduate students, its largest ever.

The number of undergraduate astronomy majors has also reached an all time high of 70.

Recent PhD alumni Jennifer van Saders and Benjamin Shappee accepted faculty positions at the University of Hawaii, a rapid and highly optimized solution to the classic academic 2-body problem.


The Friends of Ohio State Astronomy and Astrophysics held its first public event in May, 2016. Our email member list has now grown to over 400!

The Department of Astronomy inaugurated a new public lecture series, which has so far hosted talks by David Weinberg, Chris Kochanek, and Barbara Ryden.

CCAPP sponsored Science Sundays lectures by Laura Cadonati on gravitational waves and John Beacom on neutrino astronomy.

The annual Alpheus Smith Lecture featured Nobel Prize winner Arthur McDonald on the discovery of neutrino mass.

CCAPP's annual Forrest Biard Lecture featured Alan Stern, the leader of NASA's New Horizons mission, describing humanity's first closeup look at Pluto and its moons.

John Beacom interviewed the stars of the Mythbusters television series before a sellout crowd of 1100 people at the Ohio Union.

Song of the Stars, an astronomically inspired dance performance created by Paul Sutter and choreographer Cassia Cramer of Seven Dance Company, premiered in April 2016 at the Capitol Theater. A film version of Song of the Stars will premiere on PBS stations in June.

We Don't Planet, a series of short videos on ``the most interesting topics in the universe'' by Paul Sutter and Anna Voelker, is now available on


The All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) has become the dominant discoverer of supernovae in the nearby universe, finding more than 250 in 2016 alone. Its discoveries include the most luminous supernova ever seen, stars being disrupted by supermassive black holes, and quasars turning on and off. ASAS-SN is led by Professors Kris Stanek, Chris Kochanek, Todd Thompson, and John Beacom. It was recently awarded $2.4M by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to double its telescope network and reach its ultimate goal to scan the entire sky, every night.

Professor Paul Martini was named the Instrument Scientist for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument and will lead Ohio State's contributions to building this next generation cosmological survey.

Professor Jennifer Johnson completed her 3-year term as Spokesperson of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey IV (SDSS-IV) collaboration. She and Professor Richard Pogge are playing central roles in developing the next generation SDSS program, led by OSU PhD alumna Juna Kollmeier.

Professors Scott Gaudi, Chris Hirata, and David Weinberg were named to the Formulation Science Working Group for NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which will have 100 times the survey power of Hubble Space Telescope when it begins operation in the mid-2020s. Their appointments come with 5 years of NASA funding to support their contributions to WFIRST mission planning.

The Multi-Object Double Spectrograph, built by OSU's Imaging Sciences Laboratory under the direction of Professor Richard Pogge, completed commissioning of its second unit at the Large Binocular Telescope and is already the observatory's most productive instrument.

Looking towards the major NASA astrophysics missions of the 2020s and 2030s, Emeritus Professor Bradley Peterson was appointed chair of a mission concept study for the Large UV/Optical/IR Surveyor, and Professor Scott Gaudi was appointed chair of a mission concept study for the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission.

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May 2017