Two UA Grads Cited for Outstanding Doctoral Theses

May 23, 2005
Philip Hinz (center), joined by Wilson Liu (lower right) and William Hoffmann (upper left) on an observing run earlier this year at the 6.5-meter MMT telescope in Arizona. They used the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope in Chile in discovering a dust disk around a young star. The dust disk has a gap, believed to result from a forming planet. (Photo: Lori Stiles)
Philip Hinz (center), joined by Wilson Liu (lower right) and William Hoffmann (upper left) on an observing run earlier this year at the 6.5-meter MMT telescope in Arizona. They used the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope in Chile in discovering a dust disk around a young star. The dust disk has a gap, believed to result from a forming planet. (Photo: Lori Stiles)
Scott G. Davis
Scott G. Davis

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) has recognized two young scientists for their exceptional doctoral theses -- and both earned their doctorates at The University of Arizona.

The society selected Siming Liu and Jennifer Scott to receive the 2005 Robert J. Trumpler Award. The award is given to a recipient whose doctoral research is considered unusually important to astronomy.

Liu is being honored for his thesis, "Accretion Processes Around Supermassive Black Holes." Liu was a graduate student in the physics department and a member of the UA Theoretical Astrophysics Program. Physics and astronomy Professor Fulvio Melia was Liu's adviser.

"Your theoretical work in modeling centimeter, millimeter and X-ray data continues to motivate interferometic imaging, polarization studies and multiwavelength observations of the radio source Sagittarius A in the Galactic Center," ASP said citing Liu's scholarship. Liu is now a postdoctal researcher at Stanford University.

Scott won for her 2002 thesis, "The Proximity Effect in the Spectra of Quasi-stellar Objects and the Evolution of the Ultraviolet Background from Z = 4 to Z = 0."

Scott was a graduate student in the astronomy department, where Professor Jill Bechtold was her adviser. Scott is now at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Scott's thesis involved analyzing hydrogen absorption lines from intergalactic gas using light from distant quasars. She observed for 50 nights at the MMT Observatory on Mount Hopkins, Ariz., and also obtained data at the Bok Telescope on Kitt Peak and the Magellan Telescope in Chile. Her work toward understanding the physical evolution of the intergalactic medium when intergalactic gas was collapsing to form galaxies is the most comprehensive study of its kind to date, Bechtold said. Scott's thesis "is a first-rate combination of observation, data analysis and theoretical modeling," Bechtold said.

Liu and Scott each receive a cash prize of $500 plus travel expenses to accept their awards at the society's 2005 annual meeting, which will be held in Tucson in September.

Other graduates who won the Trumpler Award for their doctoral theses completed at UA include Professor Bechtold, Large Binocular Telescope Director John Hill and UA astronomy Professor Gary Schmidt. UA astronomy Professor James Liebert won the Trumper Award for a doctorate he completed at the University of California Berkeley.

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific was founded in northern California in 1889. Still headquartered in San Francisco, it has become a worldwide organization of astronomers and educators devoted to improving people's understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of science. The ASP publishes astronomical journals and a variety of educational publications and materials, as well as develops and runs astronomy education programs with funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, ASP members and donors.