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2016 USRA President's Awards


The USRA President's Awards recognize outstanding achievements by all USRA staff, reflecting performance well above normal expectations for a given job assignment. The awards come in three categories, and include monetary prizes:


  • USRA Distinguished Service Award: For sustained, exceptional contributions to USRA's mission and purpose by an individual, which reflect great credit upon USRA or its partner organizations in academe, government, and industry.
  • USRA Individual Excellence Award: For excellence by an individual in research, development, or other areas, consistent with USRA's mission and purpose, that demonstrates USRA's values of Passion, Partnerships, and Professionalism.
  • USRA Team Excellence Award: For excellence by a team in research, development, or other areas, consistent with USRA's mission and purpose, that demonstrates USRA's values of Passion, Partnerships, and Professionalism.

For 2016, the inaugural year for these awards, the following individuals and teams were recognized.

USRA Distinguished Service Award : Dr. Paul Schenk, Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI)

Paul Schenk's sustained contributions to planetary science, and especially his recognized expertise in topographic mapping by spacecraft, have enabled important new analyses that have fueled new discovery. As a Participating Scientist on NASA's Dawn mission, he was actively engaged in results from asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. As a Co-Investigator on New Horizons , moreover, he was the lead for determining Pluto's topography. Since 2015 alone, Paul has authored or co-authored more than 20 papers on these and other related topics, and made science accessible to the general public through numerous media interactions.

USRA Individual Excellence Award : Dr. Cecile Rousseaux, Goddard Earth Science Technology and Research (GESTAR)

Cecile Rousseaux's contributions to oceanographic biogeochemistry include co-authoring 15 peer-reviewed articles since GESTAR's inception in 2011, helping to elucidate the complex interactions between atmospheric carbon and the oceans. As a scientist, Cecile exhibits extraordinary energy and passion for discovery, serving as Principal Investigator (PI) on two NASA-funded proposals and co-PI on five others. She has also played an exceptional role in the National Academy of Sciences 2017 Decadal Survey, and is leading the NASA Goddard Ocean Focus Group.

USRA Individual Excellence Award : Dr. Lok Lamsal, Goddard Earth Science Technology and Research (GESTAR)

Lok Lamsal's work on global nitrogen dioxide monitoring has had a marked effect on pollution control efforts worldwide. He was honored twice this year by NASA, receiving the Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Award for Science, and the Laboratory for Atmosphere's Award for Outstanding Performance in Science. Lok's work resulted in one of the most downloaded papers in 2015 in the journal Atmospheric Science, and was featured prominently in the recent video "President Obama Explains How Pollution Affects Our Planet"

USRA Team Excellence Award : USRA Microgravity Research Team, Advanced Research and Technical Support (ARTS)

Mr. Gordon Berger, Dr. Paul Ferkul, Mr. Daniel Gotti, Dr. William Meyer, Mr. Jay Owens, Dr. Enrique Rame, and Dr. Padetha Tin comprise the USRA Microgravity Research Team. This team played major roles in the design, development, and on-orbit operation of no less than eight highly successful flight experiments this past year. Among other things, these experiments explored self-assembly of three-dimensional colloid structures; examined the burning and extinction characteristics of various fuel samples in microgravity; observed liquid crystals in microgravity, with potential industrial applications; and provided valuable data on how a fire might behave in a spacecraft, the understanding of which is crucial to the safety of astronauts, especially on long-duration missions.