Geology & Geophysics AGU News

Scherrer Receives 2014 Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award

Deborah Scherrer received the 2014 Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award at the 2014 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, held 15–19 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award is given in recognition of significant and outstanding impact on students' and the public's understanding of our science through education and/or outreach activities.

By

Citation

Deborah Scherrer
Deborah Scherrer

Deborah Scherrer is the finest example of a professional deserving of the Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington (SPARC) Award. She is a long-time American Geophysical Union member who has had (and continues to have) a significant and far-reaching impact on public and student understanding of space physics and aeronomy on a local, national, and global scale. There is no one in the field today who can match the sustainable worldwide impact of her achievements.

I have known Deborah professionally for over 15 years and have enjoyed the privilege of serving with her on pioneering projects to embed successful education programs in scientific research environments, to provide support for scientists contributing to education, and to bring the wonders of solar and space physics to underserved teachers and students in the United States and around the world.

Deborah is the founder of the Stanford SOLAR Center and director of its highly successful educational programs and award-winning website, in association with NASA solar spacecraft missions. From my perspective as a cocreator of NASA’s (then) progressive Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) policy for space missions, Deborah’s vision in developing the SOLAR Center’s innovative framework helped to operationalize and exemplify what a successful space mission education program could be.

Especially notable among Deborah’s many accomplishments is her leadership of a project to distribute scientific instrumentation (sudden ionospheric disturbance (SID) monitors) to high school students worldwide. The monitors are very low frequency receivers that detect solar influences on the Earth’s ionosphere. The project to distribute and support the use of SID monitors was greatly enhanced as part of her catalytic role in developing the education program of the International Heliophysical Year (IHY).

SID monitors are now deployed at over 900 sites around the planet where high school students and teachers are using them as the centerpiece of authentic research experiences that develop new capacities and awareness in space physics and aeronomy science. The program is being sustained as part of the United Nation’s (UN’s) International Space Weather Initiative where it supports UN aims to cultivate new space science capacities and interests in developing regions of the world.

—Cherilynn A. Morrow, Aspen Global Change Institute, Basalt, Colo.

Response

Many of you were passionate about science as a child. You probably had tremendous parental support and the encouragement of teachers, family, and friends who bought you telescopes and tools. You went to the “right” schools, got your Ph.D., and here you are. That is not my story. As a kid, I was passionate about astronomy. But there were no role models, no mentors, no supportive parent, no resources, no encouragement from teachers, and the college I wanted to attend (the California Institute of Technology) didn’t accept women at the time. I did go to college and graduate school and had a fine career in computer science, but my passion for astronomy lingered. One day, thanks to my wonderful and supportive husband, Phil Scherrer, I quit my high-paying high-tech job in Silicon Valley and moved to Stanford to develop solar science education programs for NASA.

Never have I been happier or more rewarded—working with underserved teachers and students all over the world who just want a chance to learn, to participate in science. I am so thankful to have had these opportunities. I’ve been mentored by the best, including Cherilynn Morrow and Pat Reiff, two other SPARC award winners, and I’ve worked with outstanding scientists, educators, and students whose enthusiasm for science is boundless. I am humbled and proud to be among them and to have had the opportunities in this amazing career.

I am especially here for the students, the ones like me, who didn’t get the chances. I believe every child has the birthright of access to science knowledge and understanding the universe we live in. Thank you, dear friends, for recognizing me with this award and for giving me these glorious opportunities to share the joy and excitement of solar and space science!

—Deborah Scherrer, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Citation: AGU (2015), Scherrer receives 2014 Space Physics and Aeronomy Richard Carrington Award, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO028057. Published on 14 April 2015.

© 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0