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Awards and Honors: July 7, 2009

NASA taps Whitehead Institute scientist for astronaut duty

Kate Rubins, a fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, has been selected by NASA for the 2009 astronaut candidate class. She was picked along with eight others out of more than 3,500 applicants and will head to NASA's Johnson Space Center in August to begin a training program that, among other things, will require her to learn how to pilot supersonic jet aircraft and speak Russian fluently.

"I was a bit stunned, humbled, and overwhelmed," Rubins said of her selection. "This is a very exciting time to be joining the space program."

Rubins and her eight astronaut classmates will embark on an intense two years of training in the United States and abroad, after which she hopes to become "mission-eligible" in NASA parlance - and to become the first Whitehead fellow in space.

Guth wins Isaac Newton Medal

Alan Guth, the V.F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics, was recently awarded the prestigious Isaac Newton medal by the Institute of Physics in London. The award is given to any physicist, regardless of subject area, background or nationality, for outstanding contributions to physics.

In giving the award to Guth, the institute cited his invention of the inflationary universe model, his recognition that inflation would solve major problems confronting then-standard cosmology, and his calculation, with others, of the spectrum of density fluctuations that gave rise to structure in the universe.

Associate professor, two students receive Excellence in Chemistry awards

An MIT professor and two PhD candidates were among the 14 students and professors recently honored with the Excellence in Chemistry Award from Roche, a research-focused healthcare company.

The awards, for research accomplishments in the field of organic chemistry, were given to Mohammad Movassaghi, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry; and chemistry graduate students Brett Fors and Meiliana Tjandra. The winners participated in Roche's annual two-day "Roche Symposium: Excellence in Chemistry" in early June, where they gained first-hand knowledge on the important role organic chemistry plays in pharmaceutical discovery.

Three MIT engineers taking part in the NAE's U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium

Three MIT researchers have been selected to take part in the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) 15th annual U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium, which brings together young engineers who are performing exceptional research and technical work in a variety of disciplines.

Krystyn Van Vliet, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, was selected as a general participant; J. Christopher Love, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Nicholas Roy, an associate professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, are among the organizers of the event. The symposium will take place Sept. 10-12 at the National Academies' Beckman Center at the University of California, Irvine.

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