M. Darby Dyar, the Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy and Chair of Astronomy at Mount Holyoke College, is being awarded the Alumnae Achievement Award from her alma mater, Wellesley College. This award is Wellesley’s highest honor to “graduates of distinction.”
Wellesley cited Dyar’s prolific research, which has been wide-ranging, literally spanning the solar system. She helped build a component of the Mars rover Curiosity’s ChemCam instrument. She is currently the No. 2 scientist on a proposed mission to send an orbiter to Venus in 2026. If funded by NASA next year, the mission will use a near-infrared spectrometer to determine the composition of Venus’s surface and offer clues about the planet’s past. She is one of a few select researchers who will study pristine lunar samples from the Apollo missions that have been sealed since they were collected on the Moon. She has also received more than $12 million in grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation.
In a profile in Wellesley Magazine, Dyar talked about leaving a large research university to teach at Mount Holyoke College. Her peers were aghast and thought the teaching load and the lack of graduate students would be crippling to her career. “How wrong they were,” she said.
“To me, the most important, lasting contribution is people. And so it’s the students that I’ve mentored that will be the thing I remember,” Dyar said.
In lieu of an in-person awards ceremony, Dyar and the other honorees will participate in a virtual conversation with Wellesley College President Paula A. Johnson on December 3 at 7 pm, Eastern time, and Zoom class visits with students.