In July, the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) presented Professor Joyce E. Penner, Ph.D., with the William Nordberg Medal during the 44th COSPAR Scientific Assembly in Athens, Greece. The medal recognizes distinguished contributions to the application of space science, and a minor planet is named in honor of medal recipients.
Penner, the Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric Science, was selected to receive the Nordberg Medal for her pioneering contribution and scientific leadership in identifying the diversity of atmospheric aerosols associated with human activities and how they drive climate change.
According to COSPAR, it would be difficult to find anyone working on the aerosol-climate connection who has not been influenced by Penner’s discoveries or who has not utilized the assessments she has led. Her early works have motivated spaceborne observations of aerosols for decades. She has inspired and promoted generations of women in climate science, at the University of Michigan, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and beyond her workplace.
Throughout her career, Penner has built up our scientific knowledge of chemistry and physics of aerosols in the global atmosphere. She has conducted innovative work in sustained research that demonstrates the full extent of aerosols’ impact on the atmosphere, their relationship to human activities, and their complex interactions with the climate system. Penner is among the first group of scholars who combined model and satellite observations to elucidate the complicated role of aerosols in our climate system. By delivering comparisons of the contrasting roles of aerosols and greenhouse gases in climate that can be assessed, she has enabled current climate change to be attributed to human origins.
In receiving the William Nordberg Medal, Penner will also be celebrated with a minor planet named in her honor. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) will name Minor Planet 10134 for Penner. She accepted the medal and the honor during the 44th COSPAR Scientific Assembly on July 18, 2022.
Established in 1958, the Committee on Space Research promotes on an international level scientific research in space, with an emphasis on the exchange of results, information and opinions, and to provide a forum, open to all scientists, for the discussion of problems that may affect scientific space research.
COSPAR bestows a variety of medals and awards each year, some jointly with other institutions or space agencies. The awards are aimed at encouraging space science and exploration research, and they are an important step to achieving international cooperation in the field.