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Robert J. Trumpler Award

For a recent PhD thesis considered unusually important to astronomy

The Robert J. Trumpler Award is given each year to a recent recipient of the PhD degree in North America whose research is considered unusually important to astronomy. We are honored this year to present the 2020 Trumpler Award to Gudmundur Kari Stefansson and the 2021 Trumpler Award to Jane Huang, both featured below.

The recipient of the 2020 Robert J. Trumpler Award (presented in 2021) is Dr. Gudmundur Kari Stefansson, who completed his PhD in astronomy at The Pennsylvania State University in 2019. 

His dissertation, “Extreme Precision Photometry and Radial Velocimetry from the Ground,“ is described by one of his nominators as “the broadest and deepest demonstration of expertise in precision astronomical instrumentation I have seen.” Another nominator called Stefansson “a multidimensional talent who has demonstrated ability and depth in astronomical instrument hardware, data analysis, and observational astrophysics.” As a testament to the importance of his work, Dr. Stefansson was awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship, a Leifur Eiríksson Foundation Fellowship, and is currently a Henry Norris Russell Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University. 

Stefansson’s thesis characterized and developed a revolutionary innovation for achieving high precision differential photometry from the ground where the atmosphere and limitations inherent in the astronomical detectors used make precise measurements of stellar brightness exceedingly difficult. In differential photometry, the brightness of a star is simultaneously compared to the brightness of other nearby stars. Stefansson’s Engineered Diffuser—a nanofabricated piece of optic—is capable of molding the image of a star into a broad and stabilized shape on the detector, substantially improving such brightness measurements. One nominator called his breakthrough “startling in its simplicity,” adding that “this operational simplicity is very important since it allows widespread adoption.” Currently, Stefansson’s Engineered Diffuser is being used by an increasing number of telescopes around the world to better study extrasolar planets including at the Apache Point Observatory, Mt. Palomar Observatory, the Nordic Optical Telescope, and by the Las Cumbres Network.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Gomez

The recipient of the 2021 Robert J. Trumpler Award is Dr. Jane Huang, who earned her PhD at Harvard University in 2020. 

Her dissertation, “Rings and Spirals in Protoplanetary Disks: the ALMA View of Planet Formation,” was described by one nominator as an “iconic work, masterfully done, by a student who is writing her ticket to the top of a fast-growing field.”  Another called her dissertation “a once-in-a-decade thesis in millimeter astronomy as well as in protoplanetary disks and planet formation studies.” 

Dr. Huang’s research took advantage of the sensitivity and precision of the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) to image protoplanetary disks with amazing detail to uncover the surprising amount of substructure inside. These ubiquitous structures, which include multiple rings, spirals, and other features, are images of new solar systems being formed.  Huang’s work further revealed how the radial gas and dust substructures are key to understanding the formation and chemical composition of young planets. Her landmark work will help theorists develop better models of planet formation and inform how researchers will use the next generation of infrared and optical instruments to study distant solar systems as they form.

She has also received the 2020 Robert L. Brown Outstanding Dissertation Award administered by the Associated Universities Inc. (AUI) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) for new observational data obtained at any AUI operated facility considered to be of an exceptionally high scientific standard value and impact within and beyond the area of study. Dr. Huang is currently a NASA Hubble Fellowship Program Sagan Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Join us in celebration of Dr. Stefansson and Dr. Huang’s achievements at the 2021 ASP Awards Gala (a Virtual Presentation) on November 19, 2021.

Please contact the Awards team if you have questions about the nomination process