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Marker Lectures in Astronomy and Astrophysics scheduled for Sept. 19, 20, and 21

12 September 2023
Marcia Rieke
Marcia Rieke. Image provided.

Marcia Rieke, Regents’ Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, will present the 2023 Russell Marker Lectures in Astronomy and Astrophysics on Sept. 19, 20, and 21 on Penn State's University Park campus. Rieke is also the principal investigator for the near-infrared camera (NIRCam) on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), a next-generation space telescope that first released public images in July 2022.  The free public lectures are sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

The series includes a public lecture intended for a general audience, titled “JWST: 25 Years to Build, One Year to Change Astronomy,” which will be held in 100 Huck Life Sciences Building from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 19. Rieke will also give two specialized lectures in 538 Davey Lab. The first, titled “Gratification from Building and Testing JWST: A Potpourri of First Results,” will be held at 3:45 p.m on Wednesday, Sept. 20 and the second, titled “The Search for the Most Distant Galaxies,” will be held at 3:45 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21.

In the lecture intended for a general audience, Rieke will discuss the JWST, one of the most ambitious and complicated telescopes ever to be launched into space. She will share how new data collected since the telescope’s launch have already overturned traditional thinking about distant galaxies and other cosmic objects.

NIRCam is the JWST’s primary imager that visualizes infrared light and allows astronomers to study the early phases of star and galaxy formation and to determine the ages of stars in nearby galaxies. As the principal investigator for the NIRCam, Rieke was responsible for the design, build, and delivery of the instrument to NASA. In 2023, Rieke was honored with a NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for her key roles in NIRCam’s development.

Rieke’s contributions to astronomy research and instrument development are recognized internationally. She previously served as the deputy principal investigator on the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer for the Hubble Space Telescope (NICMOS) and the outreach coordinator for the Spitzer Space Telescope. 

Rieke was previously honored with a NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal in 2014 and the Robert H. Goddard Award for Achievement in Science in 2014. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Legacy Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a past winner of the American Astronomical Society’s George Van Biesbroeck Prize for long-term achievements in astronomy.

Rieke earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She joined the University of Arizona in 1976.

The Marker lectures were established in 1984 through a gift from Russell Earl Marker, professor emeritus of chemistry at Penn State, whose pioneering synthetic methods revolutionized the steroid-hormone industry and opened the door to the current era of hormone therapies, including the birth-control pill. The Marker endowment allows the Penn State Eberly College of Science to present annual Marker lectures in astronomy and astrophysics, the chemical sciences, evolutionary biology, genetic engineering, the mathematical sciences, and physics.

For more information about the lectures or for access assistance, contact Chelsey Fisher at or (814) 865-0418.