Four scientists working at or affiliated with Marshall Space Flight Center have been named Fellows of the American Astronomical Society, the major organization of professional astronomers in North America.
The honorees were Gerald “Jerry” Fishman, Chryssa Kouveliotou, Melissa McGrath and Colleen Wilson-Hodge.
“Congratulations to each of these outstanding fellows,” Marshall Chief Scientist Renee Weber said. “They have collectively forged multiple paths to new discovery in space science and continue to inspire the Marshall scientists and engineers who build upon their legacy.”
The American Astronomical Society Fellows program was established in 2019 to honor members for their contributions toward the society’s mission of enhancing and sharing humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Being named a fellow honors members for extraordinary achievement and service. Fellows are recognized for original research and publication, innovative contributions to astronomical techniques or instrumentation, significant contributions to education and public outreach, and noteworthy service to astronomy and to the society itself.
The society’s board of trustees has designated an initial group of more than 200 legacy fellows. These include past recipients of certain awards from the society or its topical divisions, distinguished society elected leaders and volunteer committee members, and previously unrecognized individuals with long histories of outstanding research, teaching, mentoring and service.
Fishman is an emeritus scientist specializing in gamma-ray astronomy. He joined Marshall in 1974 and became principal investigator for the Burst and Transient Source Experiment, an extremely sensitive gamma-ray burst detector that flew on NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory from 1991-2000. He was also co-investigator on the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor, a key instrument aboard the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which was launched in 2008 and is still in operation.
Kouveliotou is a professor at George Washington University in Washington, and the recently elected physics department chair. She was formerly the senior technologist in high-energy astrophysics at Marshall. Her research has expanded the scientific understanding of fleeting, transient gamma-ray phenomena in the Milky Way galaxy and throughout the high-energy universe. She and her team made the first confirmed detection of neutron stars with extremely powerful magnetic fields, called magnetars – the cinders of stars left over after a supernova explosion. As a NASA scientist from 2004-15, she worked on numerous astrophysics missions.
McGrath was the chief scientist at Marshall from 2005-15. Prior to that, at the Space Telescope Science Institute, she worked for 13 years on the Hubble Space Telescope project. After retiring from NASA, she joined the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, where her primary focus is co-investigator on three instruments selected for the European Space Agency’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission to Ganymede, and the NASA Europa Clipper mission to Europa. Her research expertise includes planetary and satellites atmospheres and
magnetospheres, particularly imaging and spectroscopic studies of Jupiter’s Galilean satellites.
Wilson-Hodge first came to Marshall as an undergraduate cooperative education student in 1989. She joined the Astrophysics Branch full time in 1992. Her research interests have focused on accretion powered pulsars, the Crab Nebula, X-ray binaries and gamma-ray bursts. In 2016, she became the principal investigator for the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor. She continues to coordinate gravitational wave counterpart searches, studies accreting pulsars and is the project scientist for the proposed LargE Area burst Polarimeter mission.