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Rebekah Dawson awarded 2020 Harold C. Urey Prize
15 September 2020
Rebekah Dawson

Rebekah Dawson, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics, has been awarded the 2020 Harold C. Urey Prize by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society in recognition of her outstanding achievements in planetary science. In conjunction to a certificate and cash award, recipients of the Urey Prize are invited to present at a DPS meeting and to publish a written version as well.

The Urey Prize, now in its thirty-sixth year, is designed to bolster early-career scientists poised to change the practice of planetary science through their approach to their research. It is available to those who have not held a recognized doctorate for more than eight years.

“Rebekah has sorted out complex phenomenology with elegant and precise theoretical work, which has both clarified the interpretation of puzzling observational results and pointed the way toward tests of the models with future observations. [She] has examined both new and long-standing scientific problems and through interdisciplinary and systematic analysis has changed the field’s view of several important concepts. The DPS is proud to award the 2020 Urey Prize to Rebekah Dawson.”

Dawson’s work focuses on using computer simulations, pen-and-paper theory, and data analysis to study how planetary systems form and evolve. Her academic achievements have been honored with the 2018 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship in Physics, 2017 American Astronomical Society Annie Jump Cannon Award, 2013 American Astronomical Society Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize, and many others.

“I'm honored to be recognized and feel fortunate to be working in the field of planetary science during this exciting time,” said Dawson. “I'm especially grateful to the scientists who nominated me (Eric Ford) and wrote letters of support (Eric Agol, Eugene Chiang, Jack Lissauer); to my PhD advisor Ruth Murray-Clay for her wonderful training and support; research mentors Eugene Chiang, Daniel Fabrycky, Richard French, John Johnson, and Mark Showalter; to the Penn State Astronomy Department for supporting my research; and to the students and postdocs in my research group for their excellent work.”

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Dawson was a research fellow at Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science from 2013 to 2015. She earned a doctoral degree in astronomy and astrophysics and masters of arts degree in astronomy at Harvard in 2013 and 2011, respectively. She earned her bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from Wellesley College in 2009.