It is with incredible sadness that we announce the passing of Professor John Hawley after a long fight with cancer. In addition to being a brilliant scientist and dedicated advocate for the Astronomy Department and UVA as a whole, John was a valued mentor and colleague, and his sharp wit will be missed.
John received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1984. After a Bantrell Prize Fellowship in Theoretical Astrophysics at CalTech, he was hired at UVA in the Astronomy Department in 1987. His 15 years of leadership here were comprised of Department Chair for two terms, Associate Dean for the Sciences for two terms, and as AD for Academic Affairs and Senior AD for Academic Affairs these last two years.
John's primary research interest was the physics of gas accretion. While accretion is ubiquitous in the universe, the physical mechanism that drives it was not well understood. In our daily lives, when water comes out of a tap, it spirals inward and goes down the drain due to friction with the walls of the sink. The equivalent source of friction for accretion was assumed to be turbulence in the gas flow, but the origin of that turbulence was a mystery for almost two decades. In the 1990’s, working with Steven Balbus, John identified a powerful instability in magnetized gases that drives the turbulent flow, allowing a detailed understanding of the accretion process. Today, the “magnetorotational instability” is applied to study a wide variety of celestial objects, from accretion disks around black holes to the disks from which stars and planets form.
John’s research accomplishments were widely recognized. He was the 1993 recipient of the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society. He and Steve Balbus shared the 2013 Shaw Prize in Astronomy for their discovery, which included a US $1 million cash award. He was awarded the Hamilton Chair in Astronomy in 2014.
John also contributed fundamental insights in computational astrophysics. With the recognition that many fluid dynamics processes are too complicated to understand with pencil and paper calculations, he was a leader in developing numerical algorithms to solve for the evolution of magnetized fluids, allowing a detailed study of their behavior. With these computational tools, he and his collaborators were able to study disk accretion of gas, the formation of jets, the efficiency of disks in emitting radiation, as well as the effects of general relativity on the gas flow. As an expert in high-performance computing, he advocated for the Rivanna computer cluster which now serves the large-scale computing needs of many UVA researchers.
John’s sense of humor was legendary. Whether it was at faculty meetings, or the Kovalenko dinner speeches, or even the Chairs and Director’s meetings for the College, you always knew he could find something funny even in the driest topics and most arcane details. He will be sorely missed. We wish his wife, Katherine Holcomb, and all his family comfort at this challenging time.
Astronomy Department Chair
UVA Today Article: https://news.virginia.edu/content/memoriam-john-f-hawley-brilliant-uva-a...
John F. Hawley, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences and John Dowman Hamilton Professor of Astronomy, died of cancer on December 12, 2021 at his home in Earlysville. He was 63. He had a distinguished career as an astrophysicist. He won the Warner Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 1994. In 2013 he shared the Shaw Prize in Astronomy with former UVA colleague Steven Balbus for their work on the mechanism underlying gas accretion around black holes. He was a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society. In 2006 he was appointed chair of the Astronomy Department; in 2012 he moved to the Dean’s office as Associate Dean for the Sciences. In 2020 he took on his final administrative role as AD for Academic Affairs. He was a brilliant scientist, an able administrator, and a loving husband, son, brother, and uncle. His sharp sense of humor was legendary. He is survived by his wife, Katherine Holcomb, brothers Steve (Eileen) and Jim (Amy), sister Diane (Bernie Robe), nephew Aaron and niece Jamie, and mother Jeanne Hawley. He was predeceased by his father, Bernard Hawley. In lieu of flowers please send memorial contributions to the CASPCA, Caring for Creatures (Palmyra), The Nature Conservancy, or a similar charity of your choice.
Professor Aaron Evans and co-author Lee Armus discuss what might happen when the Milky Way meets the Andromeda Galaxy in this month's Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/galaxy-collisions-preview-milky-ways-fate/
Image: Forecasted future: An illustration shows a possible view of the merging Milky Way–Andromeda system as seen from Pluto, which may get tossed to the galaxy's outskirts, along with the solar system. Credit: Ron Miller
A 12-megapixel digital camera can capture an image composed of roughly 12 million pieces of information and is all most of us need to take stunning vacation photos or family portraits suitable for framing. However, if you’re an astronomer taking detailed images of celestial bodies that are thousands to millions of light years away, it’s nowhere near good enough. But thanks to a Cottrell SEED Award from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, UVA astronomer Steven Majewski may be one step closer to developing a technology that makes taking vivid panoramic snapshots of distant stars and galaxies something more than just the stuff of science fiction. More here: https://www.as.virginia.edu/news/research-corporation-backs-radical-new-...
Nitya Kallivayalil was invited by NSF to sit on a Dark Matter/Dark Energy panel at Awesome-Con (https://awesome-con.com) this past weekend. Other panelists included Joe Pesce (moderator), Zohreh Davoudi, Carter Hall, Marc Kamionkowski and Charles Keeton.
We are now accepting applications for the Online Girls Exploring the Universe (GETU) camp. This program offers an astronomy focused experience for middle school-aged kids primarily in Albemarle and nearby counties. We will be fully online this year, with activities spanning two weekends in mid August from 1-3pm EDT each day. Each camp day will offer a different set of activities and campers are free to join any or all days of the camp as their schedule allows. We will be preparing materials for the hands on activities ahead of time, so campers only need an internet connection to join in!
When: August 14th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd from 1 - 3 pm.
Please apply by July 24th, 2021 so the materials have enough time to be assembled: https://getu-uva.squarespace.com/apply-2021. Campers will have the option of picking up or receiving their kits by mail. .
The Owens Family Foundation has selected Nitya Kallivayalil as a recipient of their funding in the amount of $84,000 per year over a three year period. This gift will be used to further her research in near field cosmology and will enable the hiring of a prize postdoctoral fellow to work on resolved stellar populations in the local universe. The Owens Family Foundation has historically funded groundbreaking basic science research that is high risk high reward with a focus on methodological developments.
The Jefferson Scholars Foundation has announced the names of 29 students selected to receive one of its graduate fellowships; 25 selected to receive a Jefferson Fellowship and four selected to receive a National Fellowship. More information here: https://news.virginia.edu/content/jefferson-scholars-foundation-awards-f...
The Astronomy Department is pleased to announce that Amina Diop has been selected as the first John F. Angle Graduate Fellow in Astronomy. The Angle Fellowships are funded by a gift from Carol Angle and Fritz Angle. They honor Dr. John F. Angle MD (below), who is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in vascular and interventional radiology at UVa. He specializes in minimally invasive techniques to treat peripheral arterial disease, aortic aneurysm disease, venous insufficiency, venous thromboembolic disease, dialysis access maintenance, and cancerous tumors.
Amina Diop is entering UVa as a new Ph.D. graduate student this fall. She got her BA in Astrophysics & Arabic from Williams College, with a semester at the University College London. Amina is from Senegal, and has studied Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Math and Physics at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. Her research interests are astrochemistry and protoplanetary disks. For the last two years she has been working on an extensive research project, investigating the vertical structure of turbulence in the protoplanetary disk around the young star DM Tau. Amina modelled the emission from the molecular ion N2H+ coming from the disk. She won the Beth Brown Memorial Award for her poster on this subject at the National Society of Black Physicists’ annual meeting earlier this year. Nitya Kallivayalil, co-Chair of Graduate Admissions said, “I was really impressed with Amina’s poster at the conference, and upon chatting with her further, I found out that her true passion lies in radio astronomy, and that she wants to be a radio astronomer. I think she has made a wise decision, therefore, to come to UVa for graduate school, and we are thrilled that she chose us.” Amina also has extensive teaching and outreach experience and is interested in helping minority students both in the US and overseas.
Whitney Wills Richardson received a Hoos Building Bridges Award from President Ryan on April 7. She was cited as being “a selfless departmental citizen. … She is someone who volunteers to help with all types of department activities, proactively improves processes as needed, and makes space in the department for everyone. Furthermore, she actively builds bridges and keeps those bridges in good repair as a key member of the department's education and public outreach cadre, amplifying astronomy’s magical way of making science accessible to all ages in the community.” The UVAToday article on Whitney’s award is at
An international research group led by a postdoctoral fellow in the University of Virginia’s Department of Astronomy identified a rich organic chemistry in young disks surrounding 50 newly formed stars. Read more here.
APOGEE observations of the warp in the Milky Way done by Steve Majewski, Xinlun Cheng, and Borja Anguiano are feature in the Charlottesville newspaper: The Daily Progress. Read the article here: https://dailyprogress.com/news/watch-now-galactic-smack-may-have-caused-...
When the James Webb Space Telescope launches in October, it will be the world’s premier space science observatory. Its combination of high-resolution and infrared-detecting instruments is expected to provide astronomers with a wealth of detailed data – not only on individual stars in the local universe, but also an unprecedented level of detail of what’s happening at the cores of other galaxies. Continue reading here: https://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-astronomers-new-space-telescope-co...
Photo: UVA astronomers Aaron Evans, left, and Nitya Kallivayalil are working on two of the first research projects selected by NASA for the James Webb Space Telescope. (Contributed photo of Evans; photo of Kallivayalil by Dan Addison, University Communications)
Professor Kelsey Johnson has been elected to serve as president to the American Astronomical Society. Dr. Johnson is currently a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Director of the UVA Echols Scholars Program. She is an award-winning teacher and advocate for public astronomy education whose research on galaxy evolution has earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award and other prominent honors. Johnson also is the founding director of the award-winning “Dark Skies, Bright Kids” outreach program, which connects UVA astronomers, graduate students and volunteers to elementary schools in rural areas.
Read her Candidate Statement here: https://aas.org/candidate-statement-kelsey%20johnson
Result of 2021 AAS Election: https://aas.org/posts/news/2021/02/results-2021-aas-election
John Hawley, Hamilton and VITA Professor of Astronomy and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, was recently named as a Fellow of the American Astronomical Society. John was cited “For pioneering work in computational astrophysics and its application to studies of accretion disks and jets.” More information here: https://aas.org/grants-and-prizes/aas-fellows
Professor Ilse Cleeves has recieved the Research Excellence Award by the University of Virginia Research Achievement Awards committee. Each year up to three researchers are selected across UVA for this honor through a nomination process and a rigorous review by a multi-disciplinary awards committee. This award recognizes faculty members who have generated sufficient volume of scholarship of high quality and are emerging in their fields as leaders and acknowledged as such by their peers. Chair Craig Sarazin says, "Ilse has won almost every award available in the world of Astronomy. It is not at all a surprise that U.Va. would recognize the quality of her research."
By monitoring the cosmos with a radio telescope array, an international team of scientists has detected radio bursts emanating from the constellation Boötes – that could be the first radio emission collected from a planet beyond our solar system.
The team, led by Cornell postdoctoral researcher Jake D. Turner, Philippe Zarka of the Observatoire de Paris - Paris Sciences et Lettres University and Jean-Mathias Griessmeier of the Université d’Orléans will publish their findings in the forthcoming research section of Astronomy & Astrophysics, on Dec. 16.
Nitya Kallivayalil’s research was featured in a Quanta magazine article entitled “The New History of the Milky Way”, which explores the outsize influence of the Large Magellanic Cloud on our own galaxy.
Image by Gilbert Vancell
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, in 2012 the Jefferson Scholars Foundation began recognizing University faculty who have demonstrated both excellence in teaching and exceeding care for their students. This award honors those teachers in our community who have gone the extra mile in fulfilling their vocation without regard for their own advancement. This year, Mark Whittle was nominated and has been designated as a 2020 recipient. Professor Whittle has been in the Astronomy department since 1986 and his research interests include active galaxies and cosmology.
Astronomy's Ilse Cleeves has won the prestigious Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM2D (WiSTEM2D) Scholars Award. The Johnson & Johnson program seeks to “fuel development of future female STEM2D leaders and feed the STEM2D talent pipeline by awarding and sponsoring women at critical points in their careers.” More than 540 nominees from around the world were considered for this year’s awards. The six winners are all assistant professors or senior lecturers at their respective universities and represent women leaders in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, math, manufacturing and design. Cleeves was recognized as the only winner in the award’s “Science” division.
For more information, see the announcement from the UVA College of Arts and Sciences.
During the virtual Astronomy Department Diploma ceremony on 17 May, the winners of the Lawrence W. Fredrick award of the Astronomy department and the winners of three undergraduate Astronomy awards were announced.
Lawrence W. Fredrick Award
This award recognizes one or two outstanding astronomy graduate teaching assistants (TA) in the preceding year. The award is named for the Chair of the Astronomy Department in the 1960's and 1970's. This year's award goes jointly to Luca Beale and Daniel Lin. Luca was cited for his work as head TA, his role in the graduate mentoring of undergraduate majors and his work in organising the Bob Rood Graduate symposium. Daniel was cited by for his outstanding TA work, going above and beyond the call of duty in his efforts to help and educate undergraduate students. The award includes a monetary prize and a certificate.
The McCullough Scholarship Prize
This scholarship recognizes the outstanding academic and research work of a second-year undergraduate student in Astronomy or Astronomy-Physics. It is named for Dr. Timothy P. McCullough who who was a radio astronomer at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Dr. McCullough made some of the first radio measurements of many objects in the Solar System. The scholarship was established by his son, Gene McCullough, who is a U.Va. alumnus, graduating with a degree in Physics and
being in the first contingent of Echols Scholars at U.Va. As the scholarship was established only last summer(in 2019) after graduation, the winner of last year has not been yet announced publicly. So both last year and this year's winner are announced here. 2019's winner was Camryn Phillips. She did research with Prof Phil Arras on using the satellite Kepler data to look for tidal effects caused by planets on their stars. 2020's winner is James Staeben. He worked with Prof Craig Sarazin on analyzing Chandra X-ray observations of clusters of galaxies, shedding light on how they form by merging processes. The award includes a $1000 prize and a certificate.
The Vyssotsky Prize
The Vyssotsky Prize recognizes an outstanding third year undergraduate student in Astronomy or Astronomy-Physics. Professor Alexander Vyssotsky worked at McCormick Observatory for 35 years beginning in 1923. This year, the Vyssotsky Prize goes to Josef Zimmerman. Josef did research with Physics Prof Kent Yagi on the study of the properties of nuclear matter in neutron stars using gravitational wave and X-ray observations. The Vyssotsky Prize consists of a certificate and a $1,000 fund for professional travel during the student's 4th year, such as an observing trip, or a presentation at a conference.
D. Nelson Limber Award
The D. Nelson Limber Award recognizes outstanding accomplishments in course work and astrophysical research by a graduating undergraduate major or majors. The award is named for Nelson Limber, who was a professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of Virginia and a leading figure in the theoretical study of the interstellar medium and galaxy clustering. This year, the Limber Award goes jointly to Megan Kenny and Eric Rohr. Both have excelled in their research work. Megan studied the properties of the solar wind and of the corona of the sun using VLA observations with NRAO scientist Tim Bastian. She will do graduate work at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Eric did research work in a variety of fields: with Prof Mark Whittle on Hubble data on a star-forming dwarf galaxy, and with Prof Shane Davis using a magneto-hydrodynamic code studying accretion disks around black holes. Eric spent last summer at the university of Zurich, Switzerland working on simulations of galaxy evolution. He will do graduate work at the University of Heidelberg. The prize consists of a certificate and an award of $1000. Since this year it is shared, each recipient will receive $500.
Graduate student, Hannah Lewis, and Undergraduate student, Mary Brewer, are researching phenomena in our own Milky Way galaxy through a Double Hoo grant, which pairs an undergraduate student with a graduate student mentor to conduct research on a topic of their choice. Learn more about their research here: https://news.virginia.edu/content/watching-exoplanets-disintegrate-one-dust-particle-time?utm_source=DailyReport&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=news
Congratulations to Thankful Cromartie who was awarded this year's Allan T. Gwathmey Memorial Award. This award comes from the UVa Graduate School of the College of Arts and Sciences for the best paper on a "fundamental problem in physical sciences" by a current graduate student or recent PhDs. It carries a cash award of $6,500 and is a great recognition of Thankful's work. Read the paper here: https://astronomycommunity.nature.com/users/291076-h-thankful-cromartie/...
The NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP) supports outstanding postdoctoral scientists to pursue independent research which contributes to NASA Astrophysics, using theory, observation, experimentation, or instrumental development. The NHFP preserves the legacy of NASA’s previous postdoctoral fellowship programs. Once selected, fellows are named to one of three sub-categories corresponding to NASA’s “big questions”: How Does the Universe Work? - Einstein Fellows; How Did We Get Here? - Hubble Fellows; Are We Alone? - Sagan Fellows.
Thankful Cromartie was born and raised in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and received her BS with highest honors in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has pursued her PhD work as a graduate student in the University of Virginia's Department of Astronomy, where she currently works under the supervision of Dr. Scott Ransom as a National Radio Astronomy Observatory Grote Reber doctoral fellow. She will be defending her PhD in April 2020.
Thankful's research focuses on using millisecond pulsar (MSP) timing to explore fundamental physics. She is a member of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) collaboration, whose goal is to detect low-frequency gravitational waves from supermassive black hole binaries with an array of precisely timed MSPs. As a graduate student, she has explored topics under the NANOGrav umbrella, including the discovery of new MSPs for inclusion in the array using the Arecibo and Green Bank radio telescopes. Thankful has also worked on constraining the poorly understood neutron star interior equation of state using pulsar-timing observations of relativistic Shapiro delay. As an Einstein fellow at Cornell, she will continue to work within NANOGrav, pursuing ambitious searches for MSPs and using the full extent of the NANOGrav dataset to further constrain the equation of state. She looks forward to conducting joint analyses of radio and Gamma/X-ray data to improve NANOGrav's sensitivity and further understand the behavior of matter at supranuclear densities.
The AAS Fellows program was established in 2019 to confer recognition upon AAS members for achievement and extraordinary service to the field of astronomy and the American Astronomical Society. AAS Fellows are recognized for their contributions toward the AAS mission of enhancing and sharing humanity's scientific understanding of the universe. Roger Chevalier was recently selected as an American Astronomical Society Legacy Fellow. Learn more here: https://aas.org/press/aas-announces-first-class-aas-fellows
South Africa's MeerKAT peers deep into the Universe - UVA Grad Student Allison Matthews continues to work on this project to learn more about star formation. Learn more about her work here: http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/South_Africas_MeerKAT_peers_deep_into_...