15 June 2010

Bok Awards for Astronomy Presented at Intel International Science & Engineering Fair

AAS Press Release

June 15, 2010

James G. Manning
ASP Executive Director
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Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
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The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), in partnership with the American Astronomical Society (AAS), has presented the annual Priscilla and Bart Bok Awards to two high-school seniors at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair held May 9 to 14 in San Jose, California.

The first prize of $1,000 went to Andrei V. Nagornyi for his project “New Morphological Features for Automated Classification of Galaxy Images Obtained from Deep Space Surveys.” Andrei is a senior at Stuyvesant High School in New York City who currently plans to major in mathematics and computer science at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. He lives in Staten Island, New York.

The second prize of $500 went to Evan H. Fletcher for his project “Reducing the Computation Time of an N-Body Galactic Simulation.” Evan, also a high-school senior, attends the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics & Science Center and resides in Galesburg, Michigan. He will be attending the University of Michigan College of Engineering this fall, pursuing a major in either biomedical engineering or astrophysics.

Judges for the awards were Dr. Katy Garmany and Dr. John Glaspey of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, and Daniel Perley, a graduate student in the astronomy department of the University of California, Berkeley, and a former Bok Award winner.

According to Dr. Garmany, “The Priscilla and Bart Bok Award in astronomy is particularly important because every year there are a significant number of astronomy projects at the Intel science fair, yet there are very few judges with the necessary background to assess them. Many of the astronomy projects are very advanced and not easily judged by those outside the field. The students are always delighted to learn that they are talking with a team that understands the significance of their work.”

The Priscilla and Bart Bok Awards are given jointly by the ASP and the AAS. The main criterion for selecting the two annual Bok Awards is scientific merit. Observational, instrumental, theoretical, and interdisciplinary projects involving physics, mathematics, computer sciences, and engineering in support of astronomy are eligible. The awarded funds are intended to be used by the recipients to further their education and research efforts and are augmented by support for travel to the next winter meeting of the AAS (in Seattle, Washington, 9-13 January 2011).

The Bok prize is named for Bart and Priscilla Bok. Bart Bok was an accomplished research astronomer who made important contributions to our understanding of the Milky Way and star formation. He received the ASP’s Bruce Medal in 1977 for lifetime achievement in astronomy. Throughout his life, and especially as an ASP Board member, Bok was a strong advocate for outreach and education in astronomy as was his wife, Priscilla, also a distinguished astronomer. They are co-authors of a celebrated book on the Milky Way.

Upon his death in 1983, the ASP established the Bart Bok Memorial Fund to support educational projects. About 10 years ago, the activities supported by the Bok Fund were expanded to include the joint ASP/AAS sponsorship of an astronomy award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, funded in part by support from the National Science Foundation.

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Founded in 1889 in San Francisco, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific seeks to increase the understanding and appreciation of astronomy by engaging scientists, educators, enthusiasts, and the public to advance science and science literacy. Specific information on the Society’s array of awards for scientists, educators, and amateur astronomers is online.

The American Astronomical Society, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America and also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the American Astronomical Society is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.