Over the moon

Darby Dyar, chair of the Astronomy Department

By Keely Savoie

Darby Dyar, Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy and chair of the department, was awarded the Eugene Shoemaker Distinguished Scientist Medal at a recent ceremony of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute.

The award was given for her “significant scientific contributions throughout the course of her career,” and includes a certificate and medal with the Shakespearean quote, “and he will make the face of heaven so fine, that all the world will be in love with night.”

Her lab work and model development have enabled “thousands of papers” that have relied on her data. In supporting her nomination for the award, her colleagues stated that her work “will prove to be substantially more important than any single mission” in advancing human understanding of Mars.

Just last year, Dyar was honored with the Minerological Association of Canada’s Hawley Medal and she won the 2016 G.K. Gilbert Award from the Geological Society of America for her contributions to the field of astronomy. And while she can cite more than 250 published peer-reviewed papers, and the scientific bona fides to accompany them — having refined, expanded and revolutionized techniques in mineralogy in support of her research — Dyar values relationships above all else. She lists her main accomplishments as her family, and the more than 500 students who have worked in her lab for the past 35 years, along with innumerable others whose work she has directly or indirectly touched through her own research and teaching.

“A brilliant person knows no age,” she said, explaining that she learns as much from her undergraduate students as she imparts to them. 

Just last month Dyar was also one of six scientists given the Helmholtz International Fellow Award, an award given by Germany's largest science organization to international scientists whose work contributes to "solving great, pressing questions facing society, science, and business."

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