Murrell Award

The Murrell Award recognizes outstanding research or professional development, and related accomplishments that raise the visibility of the NMSU Astronomy Department. This award was created in memory of Scott Murrell, long-time planetary researcher and true friend of the NMSU Astronomy Program. It was first awarded in 2005.

Name Year

Oana Vesa


Julie Imig


David DeColibus

Rachel Marra, Sean Sellers, Julie Imig, Jodi Berdis, Kelly Sanderson, Matthew Varakian, and Bryson Stemock 2021
Jodi Berdis 2019 / 2020
Caitlin Doughty 2018
Sten Hasselquist 2017
Gordon MacDonald 2016
Diane Feuillet 2015
Kyle Uckert 2014
Maria Patterson 2013
Jeff Coughlin 2012
Ryan Hamilton 2011
Paul Strycker 2011
Chas Miller 2009
Daniel Ceverino-Rodriguez 2008
Ashley Ruiter 2007
Glenn Kacprzak 2005


Excepts from recent nomination letters: 

"David’s passion lies in conducting astronomical observations with telescopes, and through his efforts in this area he has raised the visibility of the NMSU Astronomy Department as a rich training ground for astronomical observers. He has a wealth of knowledge concerning the telescopes at the Tombaugh campus observatory as well as extensive expertise in the 3.5m and 0.5m telescopes at Apache Point Observatory as a result of being a part-time Observing Specialist there. He has leveraged both his access to and detailed understanding of the APO facilities to conduct the most in-depth ground-based study of Uranus’ moon Miranda to date, even garnering time on the Gemini North 8 m telescope to support his research. David’s observations and careful data analysis have revealed APO as a facility well-suited for studies of icy solar system objects, and his passion for astronomical observing pervades his entire approach to research. His development as a professional observer makes him a logical choice for the Murrell Award, which is named after one of the department’s most dedicated observers."

"Jodi’s work as a NASA MUREP fellow at JPL on laboratory measurements of solar system ices, as well as her engagement with the Europa Clipper team, have increased the visibility of NMSU. Her contributions to her research field include publishing a recent paper, in part based on observations made with the ARC 3.5m telescope at APO, about the crystallinity of Europa’s surface water ice. Jodi has worked extensively in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion, for example through her leadership of the Department’s Inclusive Astronomy group and her participation in several national meetings on this topic."

"Caitlin has made contributions through scholarship, through efforts to inform herself as a prospective instructor, and through her participation in the astrobites project. In scholarship she demonstrated professional skills in shepherding a paper through a very thorough referee process. In instruction, she participated in 2 comprehensive Teaching Academy workshops. In outreach, she contributed 5 article to astrobites, and participated in an effort to show how astrobites can be incorporated into lesson plans. In total, Caitlin has had an exceptional impact far beyond her niche of research.”

Sten has been a phenomenal contributor to the Department and the community. In research, Sten has the primary responsibility for the daily reduction of the APOGEE data with a critical contribution that impacts the entire APOGEE project, far beyond the scientific interests that Sten has. It is a major service to the community. In outreach, Sten played a major role in the preparations for a press conference that was held in January, and participated in this press conference himself. This received wide coverage, with over 10,000 shares on the IFL Science website! Sten’s commitment to outreach is further evidenced by his unprecedented involvement in the Department’s outreach efforts where he has served 3 years as the outreach coordinator.”

Gordon had an exceptional year in 2015, with professional accomplishments in preparing, performing, and publishing research with an impact on applied Space Weather that clearly goes beyond the normal academic paths. His personal drive to see a fruitful collaboration with AFRL cluster computing is a large positive growth in the department”

Diane Feuillet’s accomplishments over the last year demonstrate her ability to go far beyond her research in impacting the science community. In addition to her excellent publication record, she has excelled in her leadership positions at NMSU, in particular within the diversity in astronomy group, and in her role in the 1-meter telescope operations within the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).”

Maria Patterson has excelled in several aspects of the Westerbork Synthesis Radio Telescope (WSRT) Hydrogen Accretion in LOcal GAlaxieS (HALOGAS) collaboration, above and beyond the level expected of graduate students. Her roles in working with astronomers from the University of New Mexico and Europe, presenting an invited talk where she represented the collaboration, organizing a HALOGAS meeting at NMSU and her success with National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) proposals has significantly raised the profile of the NMSU astronomy department.”

“When it comes to both productivity and impact on a research field, Jeff Coughlin has excelled far beyond normal expectations. His outstanding publication record in the past few years of twelve journal papers (including seven first author articles) and his work with Dr Harrison on exoplanets has brought a notoriety to NMSU among the Kepler community. This has raised the reputation of our department at an opportune time in exoplanetary studies.”

Ryan Hamilton has made significant contributions within and outside of his primary research field of cataclysmic variable stars. His work has brought positive visibility to himself and the NMSU Astronomy Department. Ryan contributed significantly to the success of the recent NMSU LCROSS observation effort. He took a leading role in observing with the Tortugas Mountain Observatory 24-inch telescope, crafting a mosaic of south polar lunar images for use in identifying the impact site. He created a website to freely distribute the images to the entire astronomy community. This mosaic proved to be the most accurate LCROSS pre-impact site image, in terms of corresponding lunar phase, libration, and crater shadowing conditions. It was redistributed on websites by NASA and by Sky & Telescope Magazine, and even honored as the Astronomy Picture of the Day the day before the LCROSS impact.”

“Most students in a doctoral program are happy to focus on research and think of teaching as a stepping-stone toward their degree; Paul Strycker is different. Paul has been the first author on six conference proceedings and journal papers exploring color variations in the Jovian atmosphere. His passion for teaching has led him to complete more than 160 hours of professional development classes from NMSU’s Teaching Academy. He conducted a Teaching Academy workshop on how definitions can be used to engage students in the life of your discipline, and serves on the advisory board of the Academy by invitation. In Fall 2010, Paul was the primary instructor for an Astronomy 110 class, for which he created a new hands-on learning tool for lunar observations. Over the last few years, I have had the pleasure of seeing him evolve from a graduate student into a burgeoning professor.”

“One of Chas Miller’s research projects involved observations of mutual events of several Uranian satellites. This project was completely initiated by Chas during Uranus’ equinoctial season in 2007-2008. He applied for all of the APO 3.5-meter telescope time needed for this project, acquired the data, and conducted the analysis on his own. This resulted in a published Icarus Note (Miller & Chanover 2009), and represents one of the first published science results stemming from the use of the new Agile camera at APO. Due to Chas’ expertise with Agile, we have been approached by several internationally known research groups to observe other time-critical solar system events that are visible from a limited number of locations on Earth. Chas has taken the lead on all of these events, and is working with collaborators at SwRI, SSI, and Caltech on the interpretation of the data.”

Chas is also involved in the LCROSS lunar impact mission, coordinating observations from the 3.5-meter at APO, the 1-meter at APO, and the 24-inch Tortugas telescope with other observatories world-wide. This mission has garnered press coverage from local media, in which Chas has been prominently featured and quoted, and I have no doubt as the event draws closer we will see Chas in even larger publications. This press coverage is essential to winning the public’s support for future missions of this kind, and generously highlights NMSU Astronomy as a major NASA collaborator.”

“In the last year, Daniel Ceverino-Rodriguez has been active in presenting his work at various institutions both in the United States and around the world. He has given scientific talks at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto (CITA), the University of Chicago, and the Center for Astrophysics (Cambridge, MA). He also presented a poster at a meeting in Oxford, UK, on The Formation and Evolution of Galaxy Bulges.”

Daniel has authored one refereed first-author journal article and has four other papers appearing on the astro-ph preprint server. His participation in meetings and collaborations at other institutions brings positive attention to the NMSU astronomy department, as the results of Daniel’s work on galaxy formation in the framework of cosmological simulations are now being sought after by other astronomers in related fields. His hard work has contributed to the further understanding of galaxy evolution, and the results of his research have helped make the astronomical community more aware of our astronomy department.”

“In addition to her research and journal papers, Ashley Ruiter has already become known in wide and active circles involving the gravitational radiation, x-ray and Type Ia Supernova communities. This originates from the simple fact that she has spent a significant amount of time and effort in collaborating, presenting and participating in international scientific activities. She is already starting to be recognized, and her activity and research is connected directly by various research groups to NMSU.”

“I believe that Ashley has made research contributions during the past year, but more importantly she has participated in a summer school and a LISA conference, and will be attending another summer school during 2007. These activities say much in regard to Ashley’s aspiration for development, and her participation in these events does raise the visibility of this Astronomy department.”

Glenn Kacprzak’s research accomplishments run far and wide. In the last year he has given talks at two international conferences (including an IAU Symposium), and co-authored two journal papers, all in the field of quasar absorption line systems. Glenn has made a powerful impact on the scientific community and developed as a scientist at an above-average rate in a very short time.”

Glenn was the only graduate student to be granted a talk at the recent IAU Symposium on QSO Absorption Line Systems. Perhaps the most intimidating thing a graduate student can do is to give a talk in front those who will have the power to employ him in the near future. Glenn handled all of the questions about his talk with ease, and had no problem convincing those who attended the conference of the importance of his work.”