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David Jewitt and Michael Nassir Honored

Michael Nassir demonstrated the conservation of angular momentum at the April 10 Open House at IfA Manoa.

IfA astronomer David Jewitt was recently elected to two prominent academies--the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Jewitt is one of 213 new fellows to be named to the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The academy is composed of the world's leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people, and public leaders. Among this year's newly elected members are Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Nobel prize-winning physicist Eric Cornell, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, journalist Tom Brokaw, and Steven Squyres, leader of NASA's Rover program for the exploration of Mars.

Jewitt is also one of 72 new members of the National Academy of Sciences. Election to membership in the Academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization established in 1863 by a congressional act that calls on the academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

Jewitt received his PhD from the California Institute of Technology in 1983 and joined the UH Institute for Astronomy in 1988. In 1992, he and postdoctoral fellow Jane Luu opened a new window on the solar system with their discovery of the previously hypothetical "Kuiper Belt." This vast region of space, lying beyond the orbit of Neptune, is now known to be filled with at least 10 million cometlike objects left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Jewitt has also been a co-discoverer of many of the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. (See article on Saturn's moons in this issue.)

Jewitt has received several other honors, including the UH Regents' Medal for Excellence in Research (1994), the 1996 Scientist of the Year award from the Honolulu chapter of Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), and the Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award from NASA (1996).

Michael Nassir, an IfA alumnus (MS, 1996) who is now an instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is the 2005 winner of the Frances Davis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from UH Manoa. Nassir worked as an assistant to astronomer Joshua Barnes to develop the undergraduate astronomy laboratory course, and he is now one of several instructors who teach it. He also teaches introductory physics courses.