UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Rebekah Dawson, assistant professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University, has been awarded the 2017 Annie Jump Cannon Award by the American Astronomical Society. The Cannon Award is given to a female scientist within five years of receiving a doctorate to recognize outstanding research and promise for the future. Dawson is being recognized for her work modeling the dynamical interactions of exoplanets in multiplanet systems. Her studies help explain the tilt of the exoplanets’ orbits as well as their migration toward and away from each other and their host star. She has also written influential papers on the global properties of exoplanet systems, which inform us about their formation histories.
Dawson focuses her research on understanding how planetary systems beyond our solar system originate. She is interested in identifying the key factors that contribute to planetary formation and evolution and that lead to the wide variety of planetary orbital and compositional properties observed in extra-solar planets. She combines simulations and theory with statistics and data analysis of observed planets to test theories of the origins of planetary systems. Dawson is developing a comprehensive blueprint to help understand newly-discovered planets in the context of their system’s formation and evolution — important factors in whether the planets may harbor life.
Dawson’s previous awards and honors include the Fireman Prize from the Harvard University Department of Astronomy, the Block Award from the Aspen Center for Physics, and the American Astronomical Society’s Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize in 2013. Her research has been published in journals including Science, Nature, The Astrophysical Journal, and Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Prior to joining the faculty at Penn State, Dawson was a Miller Research Fellow at the Miller Institute for Basic Research in Science at the University of California-Berkeley from 2013 to 2015. She earned a doctoral degree in astronomy and astrophysics at Harvard University in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics at Wellesley College in 2009.