|New Mineral Named for Donald Brownlee|
|Sommers Awarded Regents Medal|
|Other Awards, Honors, and Professorships|
New Mineral Named for Brownlee
The International Mineralogical Association has named a new mineral—the first to be discovered in a particle from a comet—in honor of Donald Brownlee, UW professor of astronomy. The naming recognizes Brownlee’s research on interplanetary dust entering Earth’s atmosphere.
|Donald Brownlee. Photo by Mary Levin.|
The manganese silicide mineral, a combination of manganese and silicon, is now officially called brownleeite and joins a list of more than 4,300 accepted minerals.
Brownlee, whose UW office is adorned with a variety of mineral specimens, was clearly pleased with the honor—and somewhat amused.
“I’ve always been very intrigued by minerals, so it’s great to be one,” he says. “I never dreamed I’d have a mineral named after me. I guess maybe being a vitamin
The particle was captured by a high-altitude NASA aircraft, and NASA researchers in Houston, along with collaborators elsewhere in the United States, Germany, and Japan, identified the compound. Brownleeite, a semiconductor material, can be synthesized but has not been found naturally on Earth.
The team that found the manganese silicide was led by NASA scientist Keiko Nakamura-Messenger from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The team also asked that it be named for Brownlee.
“This really did surprise me because I know it took a lot of effort to get this mineral approved,” Brownlee says.
Nakamura-Messenger’s team believes the dust particle originated in a comet, possibly comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup, which was predicted to be the source of an Earth-crossing dust stream in April 2003, when the particle was captured.
The Earth is covered with more than 30,000 tons of particles from space every year, one particle per square meter of planet surface every day. But the particles are so small that it would take 10 billion to fully cover that square meter of surface, so they are extremely hard to find.
“That’s a lot of dirt and it takes 300 million years to build up a layer as thick as the diameter of a human hair,” Brownlee says.
Brownlee began his efforts to capture particles of provable extraterrestrial origin while he was a UW doctoral student in the late 1960s. Others had made similar efforts previously, but they proved to be unsuccessful. Using a succession of high-altitude balloons, Brownlee captured a few particles that could be proven to have come from somewhere other than Earth.
His third balloon carried an 800-pound machine he calls “the vacuum monster,” which dangled below the balloon as it drifted at an altitude of 125,000 feet, or about 24 miles. The machine made it possible to sample a very large volume of air, and eventually he was able to capture a total of about a dozen interplanetary dust particles from seven flights.
He later devised a small collector that could be attached to the fuselage of high-flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft and, because the planes remain airborne for so long and fly at high speeds, they are able to collect hundreds of particles.
“Almost all of the flights are done for something else, and these detectors are along for the ride. When they are opened, they just flop out into the atmosphere and gather particles as the plane moves along,” Brownlee says.
Brownlee also is a leading authority on comets. He is the principal investigator of NASA’s Stardust mission, which traveled to comet 81P/Wild-2 beyond the orbit of Mars, captured particles streaming from the comet’s surface, and returned them to Earth in January 2006. The samples are curated by the Johnson Space Center.
Helen Sommers Awarded Regents Medal
State Representative Helen Sommers (‘69, ‘70), who earned bachleor’s and master’s degrees in economics from the UW, has long been a champion of the University. In September, the UW Board of Regents celebrated Sommers’ tireless work for the University and the State of Washington, presenting her with the first Regents Medal ever bestowed by the University.
Sommers is retiring after 36 years in the Washington State Legislature.
The Regent’s resolution noted
Sommers’ leadership in the House of Representatives, and particularly the impact of her leadership on expanding higher educational opportunities and ensuring the well-being of the state’s public higher education institutions.
The Regents Medal will be given from time to time to recognize exceptional accomplishment by an individual or organization, particularly in service to humanity, a community, or to the UW itself.
Other Awards, Honors, and Professorships
Lotta Gavel Adams, professor of Scandinavian studies, was appointed the first Barbro Osher Endowed Professor of Swedish Studies.
Jere Bacharach, professor emeritus of history, received a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship.
Dee Boersma, professor of biology and adjunct professor of women studies, received the 2008 Elliott Coues Award from the American Ornithologists’ Union.
Paul Brass, professor emeritus of political science and international studies, received a Mellon Emeritus Fellowship.
Shawn Brixey, director of DXARTS, has been appointed Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Chair.
Cynthia Caci, assistant director for academic services in DXARTS, has been named Adviser of the Year by the Association of Professional Advisers and Counselors at the UW.
Rachel A. Cichowski, associate professor of law, societies, and justice, received the 2008 Best Book Award from the American Political Science Association’s European Politics and Society Section for her book, The European Court and Civil Society: Litigation, Mobilization and Governance.
Lisa M. Coutu, senior lecturer in communication, received the UW Educational Outreach Teaching Excellence Award in Distance Learning.
Kirsten Foot, associate professor of communication, received the 2008 Doris Graber Outstanding Book Award from the American Political Science Association as co-author of Web Campaigning.
Anthony Gill, professor of political science, received the Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Religion Section for his book, The Political Origins of Religious Liberty.
Alan Gillespie, professor of Earth and space sciences, has been elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America and received the Quaternary Geology & Geomorphology Division’s Donald J. Easterbrook Distinguished Scientist Award for excellence in published research.
Richard T. Gray, professor of Germanics and Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities, has had his professorship renewed.
Charles Hirschman, professor of sociology, has been selected to give the UW’s 2008-09 Annual Faculty Lecture on January 28, 2009.
Huck Hodge, assistant professor of music composition, has been awarded the Gaudeamus Prize for composers under the age of 31.
Richard S. Kirkendall, Bullitt Professor American History Emeritus, was elected an Honorary Trustee of the Truman Library Institute, recognizing three decades of service as a member of the institute’s Board of Directors.
Shelley Lundberg, professor of economics, was elected a Fellow of the Society of Labor Economists. She also has been elected to serve on the Board of Directors of the Population Association of America beginning in January 2009.
Patricia Kuhl, professor of speech and hearing sciences and co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, was appointed to the Bezos Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning.
Patricia Moy, Christy Cressey Associate Professor of Communication, received the 2008 Hillier Krieghbaum Under-40 Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Kenneth Pyle, professor of international studies, is the recipient of the 2008 Japan Foundation Award for Japanese Studies.
Nancy Rivenburgh, associate professor of communication, has received a Fulbright Senior Lecturer Award.
Leroy Searle, professor of English, has been appointed the 2008-2010 Joff Hanauer Honors Professor in Western Civilization.
Roger Simpson, professor of communication, has received the 2008 Frank Ochberg Award for Media and Trauma Study from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Stephanie Smallwood, associate professor of history, won the 2008 Frederick Douglass book prize for her book, Saltwater Slavery.
Guntis Smidchens, assistant professor of Baltic studies, has been elected President of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies.
Rekha Thomas, professor of mathematics, was appointed as the inaugural Robert and Elaine Phelps Professor of Mathematics for a four-year term.
Stewart E. Tolnay, professor of sociology, received the 2008 Honors Excellence in Teaching Award from the UW Honors Program.
Keiko Torii, associate professor of biology, received a Japanese Science and Technology Agency PRESTO Award.