Justin Hagerty and Francis McCubbin, two scientists with ties to the University of New Mexico, were among 96 researchers named by President Obama Monday as recipients of the 2011 Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.
"Discoveries in science and technology not only strengthen our economy, they inspire us as a people," President Obama said. "The impressive accomplishments of today's awardees so early in their careers promise even greater advances in the years ahead."
Hagerty is a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who earned each of his three degrees at UNM, while McCubbin is a senior research scientist at UNM's Institute of Meteoritics.
Hagerty was cited for cutting edge research fusing remote-sensing data of the Moon with laboratory measurements to establish a new coherent model of the lunar crust and mantle and for leadership and service contributions for an international network of 17 Regional Planetary Image Facilities.
"It is a tremendous and highly unexpected honor to receive such a prestigious award, and I am very grateful for all of the opportunities and support I have received throughout my career, particularly at the USGS," said Hagerty. "Because my research is based on combining data from a variety of disciplines, I have had the opportunity to work with many talented colleagues from varied backgrounds who have helped to shape my career."
McCubbin was cited for studies of the geochemical role of water and other volatiles in extraterrestrial materials from the inner solar system. His research is focused on determining the abundances and roles of volatiles including water, fluorine, chlorine, sulfur and carbon in magmatic systems within terrestrial planetary bodies, including Earth, Moon, Mars and asteroids.
"I am extremely honored to be among the early career scientists selected to receive the PECASE award this year, and I am very thankful for the continued support of NASA," said McCubbin. "This award symbolizes both an acknowledgement and validation of my research to this point, but being an early career award, it also symbolizes a certain motivation to continue moving forward with new discoveries."
An accomplished research geologist, Hagerty earned his Ph.D. (2004), his M.S. (2001) and his B.S. with Honors (1998) all in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (2004-07), where he studied lunar geochemistry.
Hagerty studied the formation of the Moon and discovered the answer to a long-standing riddle of the Moon's early history. His use of chemical tracers and remote sensing data allowed him to discover why certain elements are concentrated in some areas and not in others, a puzzle which had complicated the primary theory of how the Moon came to be.
"The USGS traces its program in astrogeology back nearly 50 years to the Nation's need to train astronauts destined for the Moon in lunar geology," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "The President's recognition of Justin Hagerty for his contributions to explaining long-standing paradoxes concerning the early evolution of the only extraterrestrial body to which man has yet ventured is one of the highest honors yet for this exceptional program."
Hagerty, who has been at the USGS in 2007, joining the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, is currently the curator of the USGS Meteor Crater Sample Collection, as well as the chair of NASA's Regional Planetary Image Facility Network.
The USGS Meteor Crater Sample Collection is an ongoing project funded by NASA that analyzes drill samples from Meteor Crater and makes the samples available to the planetary science community. The NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility Network is an international system of planetary data libraries that maintains a wide range of data products from NASA planetary missions including photographs, maps, films, engineering plans, and historical documents and artifacts. The overriding mission of the Network is to make these materials available to the public.
He has been the principal investigator on eight NASA studies and collaborated on an additional four studies. His research has examined not only lunar geochemistry, but also lunar mapping, asteroid mapping, and impact cratering.
For more on Hagerty's research, visit: UNM Alumnus Named Recipient of Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.
McCubbin started his independent research career as a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution of Washington where all the available literature indicated that the interiors of the terrestrial planets, with the exception of Earth, are extremely dry places. The driest of these bodies was believed to be the Moon, and it became the focal point of his first investigation.
"Many of the previous studies looked at bulk samples, but we took a more focused approach, looking at tiny mineral grains that host hydroxyl in their crystalline structure," said McCubbin. "Through this approach, we have shown that the Moon hosts a volume of water within its crystalline interior that is equal in volume to the Great Lakes of North America. This volume of water is five orders of magnitude greater than previous estimates of the bulk water content of the Moon, and several subsequent studies by other laboratories have confirmed our findings."
The study sparked a complete reassessment of the water contents of terrestrial bodies in our solar system, and since McCubbin and his research group have shown that Mars has at least as much water within its interior as the Earth, and even large asteroids have water stored within their interior.
"If we try and "follow the water," we now find that it is nearly every place we look," said McCubbin, who earned his Ph.D. in Geosciences from Stony Brook University (2009) and a B.S. in Geology from Towson University (2004). "Consequently, the Solar System has become a much more exciting target for astrobiology than it was only five years ago, and NASA's continued support for planetary science and exploration will undoubtedly lead to some very important discoveries over the coming decades."
"These talented individuals have already made significant contributions to the agency's mission at this early stage in their careers," said NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati. "We look forward to celebrating their continued success for many years to come."
For more on McCubbin's research, visit: President Obama Honors Outstanding Early-Career Scientists including UNM Researcher.
The Presidential early career awards embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the Nation's goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy.
The Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers was established by President Clinton in 1996, and are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.
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