Rappaport Award

The Barry Neil Rappaport Scholarship acknowledges outstanding public service by a graduate student in the NMSU Astronomy Department. It is awarded bi-annually in recognition of an exceptional record of public outreach and service or for an exceptional completed research project in observational astronomy which demonstrates excellence and breadth. Recent honorees include the following:

Kyle Uckert2015
Kenza Arraki2013
Liz Klimek2011
Jillian Bornak2009
Doug Hoffman2007
Melinda Kahre2005
Jason Peterson2003
Denise Stephens2001
Vanessa Galarza1999
Amy Simon1997
Excerpts from winning nominations include:

Kenza Arraki has blossomed into an excellent researcher and outstanding role model for her fellow graduate students. She has attended several workshops and conferences to present her work and submitted a research paper. She has recently became a NSF Gk-12 fellow, working with a local school to implement computational thinking into the science curriculum and improve basic science education for our next generation. Her leadership in both research and education is testament to her dedication as a scientist.”

Liz Klimek has shown an outstanding ability in combining astrophysics research with taking a leading role in public outreach activities. In addition to volunteering above and beyond the expected hours at Sky Safari and campus observatory, she also played a key role in the the department’s participation in Relay for Life. Her events at local schools are always enjoyed by the students and I have been impressed by her participation in planetarium conferences and teaching workshops.”

Liz combines an ability to understand complex research concepts with an ability to explain those concepts at all levels.”

“While I do not work directly with Jillian Bornak on her research, I have been impressed with her ability to talk about her work clearly and concisely. I have seen her give talks both within the NMSU Astronomy Department and at external venues (e.g., the New Mexico Symposium), and she has consistently been a clear, motivating, and engaging speaker whose familiarity with her research area shines through in her presentations. She has published one first-author paper in a refereed journal, has presented posters at three American Astronomical Society meetings, and is the first author of at least one other conference proceedings abstract.”

Jillian is the type of student who makes a habit of dropping by to discuss topics months after a class has ended, because she is still mulling them over in her mind.”

“I knew Barry Rappaport from 1979 until his untimely death. If he was in our department today, I could guarantee that Doug Hoffman’s thesis is exactly the type of project that Barry would have liked to have undertaken. Barry had a passion for charting the heavens, and the classification of previously unrecognized variable stars would have thrilled him.”

Doug Hoffman was the lead author on a 2006 Astronomical Journal paper which utilizes several data sets (AAVSO proved, NMSU 1-meter obtained) to constrain the process(es) involved in the timing changes of certain eclipsing binary systems. He also served as the Vice President of the AGSO (with the responsibility of coordinating most outreach requests for the astronomy department for a full year). During Fall 2006 a request came in from Berino Elementary School for a weeknight observing event. Doug coordinated graduate student participation, arranged for telescopes to be available, and participated in the event himself. Student, teachers, and parents were very appreciative, and displayed their appreciation in the form of a 12-foot long hand drawn and signed banner delivered to the department.”

Melinda Kahre represents the best of what we hope to produce in our program: a talented, intelligent astronomer/planetary scientist who considers it an obligation to give back to the community the excitement of the work in which she is privileged to be engaged. She participated in at least nine outreach activities last year, spanning the range from young students (a six-week course astronomy class for middle school students) to mature learners wishing to increase their knowledge of the world around them (public talks at the Golden West retirement home, and the Las Cruces Natural History Museum). Melinda had a spectacular year in research, and was the lead author on three peer-reviewed journal papers on the effects of Martian dust redistribution on planetary albedo, on mechanisms involved in inter-annual variability in global Martian dust, and on climate history and the interpretation of various geological features tied to Martian surface dust reservoirs.”