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Awards & Honors

The Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds team has received numerous awards for their accomplishments, including research, teaching and service to the university, community and profession. These include:



  • Penn State senior Rory Bowens won the Brickwedde Research Award for his honors thesis on the longterm evolution of planetary systems that sculpt transitional disks. Rory was advised by CEHW faculty Dr. Andrew Shannon and Prof. Rebekah Dawson.
  • Penn State undergraduate Cody Shakespeare was awarded an Erickson Discovery grant to support his research on resonant chains, advised by CEHW graduate student Mariah MacDonald.
  • Penn State undergraduate Shirin Zaidi won first place in the Physical Sciences category at the 2019 Undergraduate Exhibition for her work on Modeling the Dynamical Evolution of Saturn’s E ring following a Cryovolvanic Eruption on Enceladus,  advised by CEHW postdoc Dr. Sarah Morrison.
  • CEHW graduate student Jiayin Dong won the Student Poster Competition for her poster “Characterizing Exoplanet Properties from Their Debris Disks: Accounting for the Dynamical Effects of Unseen Planets” at the New Horizons in Planetary Systems conference.
  • CEHW graduate student Christian Gilbertson was awarded a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium for the 2018-2019 academic year for outstanding students in fields of study that promote the understanding, assessment, and utilization of space and contribute to NASA’s research mission..
  • CEHW graduate student Christian Gilbertson poster on “Distinguishing planets from stellar variability with machine learning” was one of two award winning poster presentations at the 2019 ICS Symposium on Artificial Intelligience and Machine Learning in Science & Society.
  • CEHW graduate student Christian Gilbertson was recognized with an Honorable Mention by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.
  • CEHW postdoctoral fellow Sarah Morrison was awarded an Office of Postdoctoral Affairs Travel Award to present her work on Saturn’s moons.
  • CEHW professor Jason Wright named recipient of SETI Institute’s 2019 Drake Award.


  • CEHW graduate students Christian Gilbertson & Mariah MacDonald was awarded a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Space Grant Consortium for the 2018-2019 academic year for outstanding students in fields of study that promote the understanding, assessment, and utilization of space and contribute to NASA’s research mission.
  • CEHW graduate student Matthias He was awarded a Postgraduate Scholarships (Doctoral) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
  • CEHW professor Rebekah Dawson awarded Sloan Research Fellowship.
  • CEHW professor Rebekah Dawson awarded Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.
  • CEHW professor James Kasting elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
  • CEHW professor Jason Wright awarded an Institute for CyberScience Seed Grant to partner with the Breakthrough Listen Initiative


  • CEHW graduate student Arpita Roy awarded a Robert Millikan Prize Postdoctoral Fellowship to be held at Caltech.
  • CEHW graduate student Taran Esplin awarded a Peter Strittmatter Fellowship to be held at the University of Arizona
  • CEHW graduate student Arpita Roy  was awarded the Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishments.
  • CEHW graduate student Jacob Luhn led a successful NASA K2 Cycle 5 proposal entitled “Developing Predictors of Radial Velocity Jitter from K2 Light Curves” (co-Is: F. Bastien & J. Wright) to obtain K2 light curves of stars with existing precise radial velocity (RV) observations with the end goals of determining the underlying physical drivers of stellar RV variability and facilitating the prioritization of targets for precise RV planet searches.
  • CEHW graduate student Mariah MacDonald wins NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.  Mariah’s current research focuses on the formation and dynamics of super-Earths, and she recently led a paper on the Kepler-80 system. Her outreach and teaching include mentoring undergraduates, teaching and tutoring math and physics, and engaging K-12 students in discussions and activities about science careers.
  • CEHW graduate student Jonathan Jackson received an NSF Graduate Research honorable mention. Jonathan’s current research focuses on the origin of warm Jupiters. His outreach and teaching include engaging the public at AstroFest, teaching introductory astronomy labs, and organizing and leading discussions on improving equity and inclusion through Toward a More Inclusive Astronomy (TaMIA).
  • CEHW graduate student Arpita Roy was awarded the American Astronomical Society’s Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize and the Penn State Alumni Association Dissertation Award. Both were awarded based on the excellence of her PhD dissertation research, “The Promise of Many Worlds: Detection and Characterization of Exoplanets with Extreme Precision Spectroscopy.” Arpita‘s work focuses on developing instrumentation and data analysis pipelines for high precise radial-velocity spectrographs to detect and characterize low-mass extra-solar planets and distinguish them from false positives.
  • CEHW graduate student Kimberley M. S. Cartier won the American Astronomical Society’s Chambliss Graduate Student Poster Medal which recognizes exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students. Kimberley’s winning poster summarizes a chapter of her thesis, and discusses applications of science communication theory to the practice of astronomy communication across media and audiences. Not coincidentally, she has also written about best practices for poster design on her blog.
  • CEHW graduate student Jacob Luhn awarded Zaccheus Daniel Foundation Fellowship to support his scientific research.
  • CEHW undergraduate Rory Bowens was awarded a Penn State University Student Engagement Network Grant.
  • Dr. Daniel Carrera joins CEHW as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow in conjunction with the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science.
  • CEHW Professor Steinn Sigurdsson appointed Scientific Director of arXiv.
  • CEHW Professor Suvrath Mahadevan named the winner of the 2017 Outstanding Postdoc Mentor Award by the Penn State Postdoc Society.
  • CEHW Professor Rebekah Dawson awarded the 2017 American Astronomical Society Annie Jump Cannon Prize for outstanding research and promise for future research… for her work on extrasolar planet dynamical modeling.
  • CEHW Professor Alex Wolszczan has been awarded the Bohdan Paczynski Medal of the Polish Astronomical Society (PTA) for “the highest scientific distinction by the PTA for outstanding individual achievements in astronomy.”
  • CEHW Professor Rebekah Dawson awarded an Institute for CyberScience Seed Grant to enhance the 3rd Meeting on Extremely Precise Radial Velocities


  • NASA selects CEHW-led Team to Build Next-Generation Exoplanet-Hunting Spectrograph
  • Six CEHW faculty among team members for CyberLAMP, an advanced supercomputer cluster at Penn State made possible by a National Science Function Major Research Instrumentation award.
  • CEHW graduate student Jason Curtis awarded an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship to be held at Columbia University.
  • CEHW Graduate Student Sam Halverson awarded NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship for his research developing instrumentation to detect low-mass exoplanets to be held at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • First year CEHW graduate student Jacob Luhn awardd a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to study how precise radial velocity measurements made at different wavelengths using data from Penn State resources such as MINERVA, HET/HRS, and the Habitable Zone Planet Finder.
  • CEHW graduate student Guðmundur Stefánsson awarded a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship for his research proposal on “Extreme Precision Photometry and Radial Velocimetry from the Ground for TESS and Beyond”.
  • CEHW graduate student Sharon Wang awarded a Carnegie Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Carnegie Institute of Washington.
  • CEHW Graduate student Rachel Worth accepted an Insight Data Science Postdoctoral Fellowship.
  • CEHW graduate student Kimberly Cartier served as a mentor for the Summer Research Experience in the Eberly College of Science program (SEECoS). Her was honored with the first place award in the SEECoS program for excellence in the research presentation and the research program overall.
  • CEHW Professor Rebekah Dawson was appointed to NASA’s Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) for the Large Ultraviolet, Optical, and Infrared (LUVOIR) Surveyor Mission. The STDT will develop a mission concept for LUVOIR in preparation for the 2020 Decadal Survey.
  • The International Astrostatistics Association honored CEHW professor Eric Feigelson with the Outstanding Contributions to Astrostatistics Award.
  • CEHW Professor Eric Ford gives the 2016 Eddington Lecture at University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy and Royal Astronomical Society
  • CEHW Professor Eric Ford named Research Fellow of the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute for their 2016/2017 Program on Statistical, Mathematical and Computational Methods for Astronomy
  • Thomson Reuters recognizes CEHW Professor Ronald Gilliland as one of 2016 Web of Science Highly Cited Researchers.
  • CEHW Professor Jim Kasting to receive the 2015 National Academy of Sciences Award in Early Earth and Life Sciences and the Stanley Miller Medal “for his outstanding modeling studies of planetary atmospheres and habitability that constrain the environmental context for the origin of life.”
  • CEHW Professor Suvrath Mahadevan was invited to attend the Research Corporation for Science Advancement Scialog on Time Domain Astrophysics (TDA) as a Scialog Fellow. His proposal “Transformational Technologies and Techniques for High Precision Photometric and Spectroscopic Stellar TDA” was selected as one of six successful proposal teams.
  • AAS names CEHW Professor Jason Wright Harlow Shapely Visiting Lecturer to “bring the excitement of modern astronomy and astrophysics to two-year colleges and four-year ics undergraduate institutions throughout North America, especially institutions that do not offer an astronomical degree.”















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