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Contact: Michelle Viotti (818) 354-8774

April 28, 2000

Jobs in the 21st century are only getting better and better,
as the call for students with planet-finding talent grows louder.
Through the Michelson Fellowship Program, NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif., recently awarded three post-
doctoral and four graduate fellowships to students with
innovative proposals for enhancing NASA’s search for planets
around other stars.

“Support of students — our future astronomers and space
scientists — is a high priority for NASA and JPL,” said Dr.
Rudolf Danner, director of the fellowship program. “Not only will
we benefit from the high caliber of their research, the
recipients will have a unique opportunity to participate in
current mission work, as well as to prepare for new career
opportunities in astronomy.”

Funded by NASA’s Origins Program and JPL’s Space
Interferometry Mission, the fellowships are named for Dr. Albert
Michelson, the first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics.
Michelson is known as the father of interferometry, a technique
that combines and processes light from multiple telescopes to
obtain a clear image of distant objects. Interferometry is a
key technology for the Origins program in its effort to detect
faint, Earth-size planets around stars light years away.

The annually awarded fellowship sponsors three years of
graduate research at the student’s host institution and covers
tuition, a student stipend, and a small budget for travel and
other research expenses. The graduate student award is about
$30,000 per year, while the post-doctoral awards range from
$60,000 to $80,000 per year, depending on the nature of the

This year’s graduate fellowships were awarded to:

– Yuan Liu, State University of New York at Stony Brook, who
will develop a technique to detect binary (double) stars;

– David Berger, Georgia State University in Atlanta, who will
develop a method to reduce the obscuring effects of the
atmosphere in ground-based telescopic observations;

– Doug Hope, University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, who will
apply information theory — the theoretical understanding of
how computer algorithms work — to the analysis of images
taken by optical interferometers; and,

– Kuo-Chia (Alice) Liu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Cambridge, who will study the engineering challenges
associated with large space interferometers, seeking ways of
taking more and better images within a shorter amount of time.

Post-doctoral fellowships were awarded to:

– Dr. Marc Kuchner, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena,
who will study the earliest stages of planet formation by
looking for dust around nearby stars at Harvard University’s
Center for Astrophysics, Boston, Mass.;

– Dr. Maciej Konacki, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland, who
will develop new methods for planet detection at Caltech; and,

– Dr. Jean-Philippe Berger, Observatoir de Grenoble, France, who
will pursue research at Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics on
ways to combine the light from several telescopes so that they
act as a single, much larger one.

The application deadline for fellowships for 2001 is
December 2000. Information is available at the following

The Origins Program seeks to understand the emergence and
development of galaxies, stars, and planets, as well as the
possibility for life elsewhere in the universe. JPL, a division
of Caltech, manages the Origins Program on behalf of NASA’s
Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.