GREENBELT, Md. – 3 Nov 10
NASA Goddard USRP Interns Earn Back-to-Back Dwornik Awards
By: Anthony Zippay & Heather L. Ogletree
Paul Richardson and Jacob Richardson, two undergraduate interns placed with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center through the Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP), have each won the Stephen E. Dwornik Student Research Paper Award for Undergraduate Oral Presentations in 2009 and 2010, respectively. The USRP interns worked with NASA mentors Herbert Frey and Jacob Bleacher at the Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory and were recognized for their contributions to Bleacher’s Mars Data Analysis Program project, “The Catalog of Tharsis Province Small Volcanic Vents”.
P. Richardson, who interned in the Fall of 2008, and J. Richardson, who interned in the Fall of 2009, are not family, but they have become part of the NASA family at Goddard through their passion for planetary science.
“Until I got to Goddard, I didn't know if becoming a planetary geologist was even possible,” stated J. Richardson. “The experience let me see that some specific projects in this field that we're actually being carried out right now. At Goddard, I found out how I can best continue my education and how I might one day fit into NASA.”
The Stephen E. Dwornik award is administered by the Geological Society of America’s Planetary Geology Division and is well respected within the Planetary Sciences community. Although the Dwornik award has a long history, it was not until 2009 that the Geological Society of America Planetary Geology Division established a separate undergraduate and high-school portion of the competition so that students could compete separately from 4th and 5th year graduate students. As such, the first two undergraduate Dwornik winners were both linked to this Goddard Space Flight Center project.
P. Richardson majored in Earth and Space Sciences with the University of Washington in Seattle and is currently a PhD student at MIT in the Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Science Department working with Dr. Taylor Perron. He noted, “My time at Goddard cemented my interest in planetary science. I am primarily doing terrestrial research at the moment, but will soon be starting a planetary research project. It was great working with Dr. Bleacher because his planetary volcanology work incorporates studying terrestrial analogues.”
J. Richardson graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in Geology. “One of my favorite parts of USRP was getting to know the other interns. Nine of us showed up one day at NASA, and we all felt that we were kids again,” stated Jacob about his first experiences at NASA. “But at the same time we were scared out of our minds because we each were thinking, seriously, how did I get into NASA? But we all settled in and found out that the scientists and engineers were just pleased to get a pizza with us and talk about space science.”
As for their future plans, P. Richardson would like to stay in academia and become a research professor, while J. Richardson hopes to become a planetary geologist and continue his exploration of the solar system.
J. Richardson said, “I'm honored to have won the award. Just having the opportunity to present my findings at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference was so exciting. At the end of the day the research I've been able to be a part of is the real award.”
P. Richardson agreed, “It feels great to win this award! It is a true testament to the importance of working hard and of good guidance. I really appreciate all of the help that was offered from Dr. Jacob Bleacher and Dr. Herbert Frey during my time at Goddard Space Flight Center. Without their help, there is no way this would have been possible.”
According to NASA USRP Mentor Jacob Bleacher, “The most rewarding aspect of serving as a mentor to USRP interns is seeing their interest in science grow. Both Paul and Jacob took on their aspect of this project and led it in their own directions, which has helped me evolve the way in which the overall project has progressed....Their hard work, commitment and confidence in themselves enabled them to step into this project, conduct good science, and to communicate their results in an effective way to the community, who in turn granted them this award. I couldn’t be happier for Paul and Jacob, and am thankful to the USRP for providing me the chance to work with them.”