The Athelstan Spilhaus Award recognizes exceptional skill, dedication, and success in informing the public of the value, beauty, and excitement of Earth and space science research. Dr. Alex Young embodies these virtues as an outstanding communicator and a national asset to the space science community.
As an enthusiastic and effective communicator, Alex has made extraordinary contributions to enhancing the public’s understanding of space science. He has contributed to half a dozen science documentaries; given hundreds of live interviews to news media for NASA; responded to journalists from local to international levels; and reached thousands of children and adults via classrooms, museums, libraries, clubs, professional societies, and science fiction events across the country. These activities led him to become the associate director for science in the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Heliophysics Science Division, where he developed and continues to lead a national education program for space science through the NASA Science Mission Directorate.
Alex’s leadership as the program manager of NASA’s 2017 total solar eclipse national education and outreach effort exemplifies his dedication and impact. He led efforts in the largest, most complex, most inclusive, and most impactful public engagement program ever executed by NASA. These successful efforts encapsulate the unique combination of vision, strategic planning, team leadership, and intense personal energy that he applies toward his ultimate goal: widespread and lasting public engagement with space science. Alex did not stop at leading the efforts; he was in the trenches as the primary spokesperson for NASA. He made more than 50 presentations leading up to the eclipse to promote NASA science activities and especially safe solar viewing. These presentations happened coast to coast, from the Library of Congress and professional society meetings to a local county library in an underserved region of Delaware. On any given day, Alex was responding to multiple journalists, interviewing with the New York Times, and creating videos with the Washington Post. He gave over 60 interviews spread over four separate live-shot events through the NASA Goddard television studio. Dr. Young also served as a subject matter expert for the NASA associate administrator for science during a NASA preeclipse press conference and a posteclipse House and Senate subcommittee hearing on the eclipse.
The eclipse program was only Alex’s latest achievement among many over the past decade and more. He has more than demonstrated that he is a most deserving recipient of AGU’s 2018 Athelstan Spilhaus Award.
—Holly Robin Gilbert, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
It is amazing to be noted for doing one’s passion, so I am deeply honored to be recognized with the Athelstan Spilhaus Award by AGU. Sharing the thrill and wonder of the universe with friends and strangers through communicating the excitement of space science is a personal joy. But even more so is knowing that I have the support and understanding of my peers, mentors, family, and friends. Whether it be a TV broadcast from the top of a mountain, under the shadow of an eclipse, or sitting with a roomful of children, sharing nature’s glory and seeing the awe inspired in someone’s eyes are themselves beautiful to behold. And I believe that bringing the complexity and wonder of the world and beyond to a single person and maybe even to society is a critical part of science at its best.
No one gets there on their own. Thank you to all my colleagues, who not only have helped me to learn and share my own science but also have given me the breadth of their knowledge to bring to others. Without their love and drive for science, this grand adventure would not be possible. I especially thank my teachers and mentors, in particular, Holly Gilbert, Michael Hesse, Joe Gurman, Kristen Erickson, Jim Ryan, and Dawn Meredith and my team. They have believed in me and supported me through a winding career. Thank you to my parents for their foundation. And a special thank you to my wife, Linda, my Sun, Moon, and stars, who inspires and pushes me to new heights.
—C. Alex Young, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.