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Renowned astronomer receives the Richard Hawkins award


At the Honors and Awards Ceremony held April 22 at Austin Peay State University, a renowned astronomer received the Richard M. Hawkins Award for scholarly and creative activities.

APSU President Tim Hall presented the Hawkins Award to Dr. J. Allyn Smith, associate professor and interim chair of the APSU Department of Physics and Astronomy. Smith joined the APSU faculty as an assistant professor in 2006 after working four years for the International Space and Response Technologies Division, Space Instrumentation and Engineering Group of Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico.

Smith earned a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the Florida Institute of Technology, where he also earned a Master of Science in Space Technology, Master of Science in Astronomy and Atmospheric Physics and a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology.

According to Dr. Jaime R. Taylor, professor of physics and interim dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, Smith had a strong record of research prior to his APSU appointment, having authored or co-authored more than 200 publications or conference proceedings papers.

Smith's paper on SDSS Standard Stars, published in 2002, is the 22nd most referenced paper in the Astronomical Journal and is the 603rd most referenced Astronomical paper published since 1827 (165,583 total papers).

“Dr. Smith's scholarly achievements since arriving at APSU are truly exceptional,” Taylor said. “He has continued working under two pre-existing grants on standard star calibrations and galactic structure. Since August 2006, he has authored or co-authored 21 publications or conference proceedings papers.”

Over the past two years, Smith has attended meetings of the American Astronomical Society where he has co-authored eight papers, and he has attended several other international conferences where he presented six additional papers or posters.

According to Taylor, research teams which include Smith have received 20 orbits of observing time on the Hubble Space Telescope, 10 hours of time on the Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope and nine nights on NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility on Mauna Kea in the past year.

He holds “participant” status with the Sloan Digital Survey. He's also a member of NASA's Supernova Acceleration probe mission and a member of the calibration team for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project. In 2007, Smith served as general chair to the Space Engineering and Science Institute International Meeting.

Taylor said, “Dr. Smith has had hundreds of nights of observing at world-renowned observations, such as the Kitt Peak National Observatory, the U.S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff, the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, the Anglo-Australian Observatory, the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope and NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility.

“Shortly after arriving at APSU, Dr. Smith was elected to the International Astronomical Union. All of this has taken place while teaching heavy course overloads and, recently, being appointed interim chair of the department of physics and astronomy.”

Smith has been working toward adding an astronomy concentration to the physics major by developing several new upper division courses in astronomy.

“Dr. Smith's productivity as a research astronomer has been outstanding,” Taylor said. -- Dennie B. Burke