Source: Penn State | Release | July 10, 2018

Rebekah DawsonRebekah Dawson, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, has been awarded the Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award by Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). The Powe Award program provides funds to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty. Recipients of the award, each of whom is in the first two years of a tenure track position, receive a grant to enhance their research during the early stages of their careers.

“The Powe Awards program is very popular and beneficial to our member universities because it provides an opportunity for young faculty members to further their research careers and helps them identify potential funding avenues,” said Arlene Garrison, ORAU Vice President, University Partnerships Office. “ORAU is proud to recognize the research and professional growth of these emerging leaders as they support the future of science and technology.”

Dawson focuses her research on understanding how planetary systems beyond our solar system originate. She is interested in identifying the key factors that contribute to planetary formation and evolution and that lead to the wide variety of planetary orbital and compositional properties observed in extra-solar planets. She combines simulations and theory with statistics and data analysis of observed planets to test theories of the origins of planetary systems. Dawson is developing a comprehensive blueprint to help understand newly-discovered planets in the context of their system’s formation and evolution — important factors in whether the planets may harbor life.

Dawson was honored with the Annie Jump Cannon Award — given to a female scientist within five years of receiving a doctorate to recognize outstanding research and promise for the future — by the American Astronomical Society in 2017. Her other awards and honors include the Fireman Prize from the Harvard University Department of Astronomy, the Block Award from the Aspen Center for Physics, and the American Astronomical Society’s Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize, all in 2013. Her research has been published in journals including Science, Nature, the Astrophysical Journal, and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Dawson was a Miller Research Fellow at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science at the University of California – Berkely from 2013 to 2015. She earned a doctoral degree in astronomy and astrophysics at Harvard University in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics at Wellesley College in 2009.

ORAU is a consortium of 121 research institutions partnered with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory with the goal of facilitating collaboration on major scientific initiatives that help keep America on the leading edge of science and technology. The award, now in its 28th year, is named for Ralph E. Powe, who served as the ORAU councilor from Mississippi State University for 16 years. Powe participated in numerous committees and special projects during his tenure and was elected chair of ORAU’s Council of Sponsoring Institutions. He died in 1996.