Zia Award

The Zia Award recognizes outstanding research by a graduate student in the NMSU Astronomy Department. 

Carlos Vargas2015
Kyle DeGrave2014
Nikki Nielsen2013
Sebastian Trujillo-Gomez 2012
Michael Kirk 2011
Mike Sussman2010
Jeff Coughlin2009
Jessica Evans2008
Daniel Ceverino-Rodriguez2007
Glenn Kacprzak2007
Ashley Ruiter2006
Joe Helmboldt2005
Peregrine McGeehee2004
Melinda Kahre2003
Takafumi Temma2002
Octavio Valenzuela2001
Excerpts from the nominations:

Kyle Degrave has blossomed into a strong and productive researcher. He has published three first author papers this year, with controversial results that show the entire community the extent to which inversions may over and under estimate velocities. He took the initiative to set up splinter groups at workshops to show how important these results are. Kyle works at his own rapid pace and sets his own career goals. He has taken on an independent role, including initiating several external collaborations.”

“By any measure, Nikki Nielsen has had an exceptionally productive year. The Magiicat synthesized three decades of disparate information on MgII absorbing galaxies into a single work. With this unique dataset, she has published five papers, two of which were first authors, has contributed to four further publications, and presented her work at two international conferences. This culminated in team success for a large Hubble Space Telescope proposal.”

Sebastian Trujillo-Gomez has blossomed into an independent researcher and productive collaborator whose recent record of publications and citations is a result of sustained work over a number of years. He is genuinely interested in others’ research, imaginative in his own research, and strives to make connections to many members of the department.”

Michael Kirk has showed tremendous independence at a very early stage in his research career. He has forged new collaborations with the Air Force Research Lab, where he has twice been a Space Scholar over the summer months. His publication record is strengthened further by his presentations at conferences and colloquia, both nationally and internationally.”

Michael’s research maturity is best described as the ability to find problems on his own … we all like to see graduate students take the initiative.”

Mike Sussman conducted a study of the use of streamlines to derive wind speeds within vortices and applied this method to Jupiter’s Oval BA. This project grew out of a chance conversation in the hallway with Reta Beebe one day, and was not something he had planned as part of his Ph.D. dissertation research. Nonetheless, he developed a number of sophisticated computational tools to demonstrate this new approach for wind speed derivation.”

“The focus of Mike’s Ph.D. dissertation research is to explore the role that seasonally varying insolation plays in driving atmospheric dynamics on Uranus. Mike is using the EPIC giant planet atmospheric modeling code, and has been singlehandedly responsible for a number of major improvements to this code, including the inclusion of an external heat source (the Sun), the addition of spectrally accurate absorption in the atmosphere, the use of methane as a passive tracer in the atmosphere, and the implementation of pressure-induced molecular hydrogen opacity.”

Mike has a rare intuitive feel for the physics of atmospheric dynamics. He is as happy and comfortable talking about topics like potential vorticity and atmospheric spin-up experiments as most people are talking about the weather. He tackled the difficult and controversial topic of planetary wind speed measurements as a graduate student, publishing a significant paper on this topic, and he is contributing new and fundamental results about the role that changing sunlight plays in driving Uranian atmospheric dynamics.”

“In this department, the name Jeff Coughlin is synonymous with research.”

Jeff has continually demonstrated his commitment to world-class research. The sheer volume of successful observing proposals he has been granted, the prestige of the grants he has been awarded, and the quality of the publications he has contributed to the scientific community in the last year make obvious this comment.”

Jessica Evans presented a poster at the Gas Accretion and Star Formation in Galaxies meeting (Garching, Germany) in September 2007, and gave an excellent contributed talk at the Gas Physics and Galaxies Evolution meeting (Irvine, CA) in February 2008. She assisted with specialized calculations on several occasions, for which she earned a contributing author credit on two published papers. She has also been a key APO observer for a long-term observing program.”

Glenn Kacprzak’s work has had a large impact on the domestic and international community. He has attended four international conferences and given talks at two of them, and his work has already been cited in journal publications by other authors 47 times to date. Glenn’s meeting attendance has not only enhanced his research and future job prospects, it has enhanced the recognition of our department on local, national, and international levels.”

“Because of his intense work ethic and research accomplishments, Glenn is an ideal role model for all students in the astronomy department. He is always willing to share his knowledge and advice with others. He provides a standard to other students of what graduate school, ultimately, is all about.”

Daniel Ceverino-Rodriguez presented a poster on the effects of stellar feedback at the IAU Symposium 245 which won first prize – his was the best poster of the entire symposium, as judged by more than 200 experts in the field of galactic structure.”

“We often rely on the help of our graduate students when preparing grant proposals. This year Daniel’s scientific results were instrumental in our receiving two NSF grants, bringing roughly $500,000 of research funds to the astronomy department. This was not about Daniel helping out by making plots and such – this was about his research, and his results, making the scientific case in an extraordinary way.”

Ashley Ruiter leaped to an early start in performing research at NMSU, and is a standout in this regard. She was the first author on a manuscript recently published in the prestigious Astrophysical Journal Letters, and played a prominent role as a co-author of two more published papers. Her work in population synthesis calculations has enabled the first actual calculations of the number of faint white dwarf x-ray sources in the Galactic Centre. Her strong research efforts indicate great promise, and she has a bright future ahead of herself in the field of stellar astrophysics.”

Joe Helmboldt has completed a large Ph.D. project that produced significant results on an important stage in galaxy evolution, star formation in galaxies at diverse ends of the Hubble Sequence, and was characterized by remarkable independence on his part. He is the lead author on the five derivative journal papers for a very good reason: he did all the work.”