2014-11-8: NOGLSTP Recognition Awards to Atherton, Bland, Burke, and Mavalvala

The recipients of the 2014 NOGLSTP Recognition Awards are Nergis Mavalvala – Scientist of the Year, Rickie Christine Bland – Engineer of the Year, Tim Atherton – Educator of the Year, and John Burk – Walt Westman Award. The awards were presented at the gala banquet at the Out to Innovate™ summit in November 2014, held jointly with oSTEM’s 4th National Conference.

Nergis Mavalvala, 2014 NOGLSTP LGBTQ Scientist of the Year

Nergis photo
Nergis Mavalvala, 2014 NOGLSTP LGBTQ Scientist of the Year

2014 NOGLSTP Scientist of the Year, Nergis Mavalvala, is a Professor of Physics at MIT. Nergis Mavalvala received her Ph.D. in Physics from MIT in 1997, and a B.A. in Physics and Astronomy from Wellesley College in 1990. She is currently the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to coming to MIT in 2000 to join the MIT LIGO Laboratory, she was a postdoctoral scholar and research scientist at Caltech, working on the Laser interferometric Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). She has been involved with LIGO since her early years in graduate school at MIT and her primary research has been in instrument development for interferometric gravitational-wave detection. Dr. Mavalvala’s efforts in quantum metrological methods have earned her numerous accolades, including the 2013 Joseph F Keithley award for advancements in measurement science and a 2010 MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Award”). In addition to her technical accomplishments, Dr. Mavalvala, a Pakastani born, out lesbian physicist, has a partner and young daughter. She gave the keynote speech at NOGLSTP’s 2012 Out to Innovate™ Summit. She is an inspiration for all minority scientists that proves that there are no limits to what you can do just by being yourself.

Rickie Christine Bland, 2014 NOGLSTP LGBTQ Engineer of the Year

Christine Bland photo
Rickie Christine Bland, 2014 NOGLSTP LGBTQ Engineer of the Year

The 2014 NOGLSTP Engineer of the Year Award recipient is Rickie Christine Bland of Lockheed Martin. Christine Bland has a degree in engineering and has worked for Lockheed Martin for over 25 years. She is currently working on NASA’s Orion program to create the next generation of space vehicles to take humankind to the Moon, and ultimately into deep space. Christine worked on many projects for Lockheed Martin in the Deep Space Exploration Group, including Stardust, Spitzer Infrared Space Telescope, Genesis, Odyssey Orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, GRAIL, and JUNO (Jupiter Orbiter). Christine’s crowning career achievement to date is fault management electronics, originally built for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and currently being used on numerous other space vehicles. Christine has also been an adjunct lecturer in the engineering department at Denver Technical College and she designed computer system process telemetry for astrophysics rockets at the University of Colorado. In 2011 Christine informed Lockheed Human Resources that she would complete the transition process to change her gender. Since that day, she has been a highly visible role model in the company, actively involved with the Lockheed Martin LGBT Forums at the corporate level. She has participated on multiple panels, including STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) outreach at a number of universities. She is the Chair of the Lockheed Martin Transgender Council, delivering policy and procedure guidance and facilitating numerous on-the-job gender transitions, as well as co-Chair of the Leadership Forum workshop. She also served as the Vice-President for the Gender Identity Center of Colorado. Her leadership brought Lockheed Martin to become the first aerospace/defense company to recruit at transgender career fairs in Denver and other locations.

Tim Atherton, 2014 NOGLSTP LGBTQA Educator of the Year

Tim Atherton photo
Tim Atherton, 2014 NOGLSTP LGBTQA Educator of the year

The 2014 NOGLSTP Educator of the Year is Tim Atherton, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Tufts University. He completed his undergraduate degree in Theoretical Physics in 2003 at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, studying abroad at Central Michigan University. Tim received his Ph.D. in Physics in 2007 from the University of Exeter in the UK, where he studied frustration phenomena in liquid crystals as a member of the Electromagnetic Materials group with Professor Roy Sambles.

Atherton then spent two years as a postdoctoral scholar at Case Western Reserve University in the Rosenblatt group, contributing to a diverse range of projects from Rayleigh-Taylor instability to direct imaging of liquid crystalline order via the technique of optical nanotomography. He joined the faculty of Tufts University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Fall 2011. For the last three years, he’s been working as a co-organizer of the national organization of LGBT+Physicists (www.lgbtphyscists.org) to improve the climate for sexual and gender minorities. Tim became an organizer shortly after the group was formed, and has contributed to many of the major projects undertaken by the group. Within Tufts, Tim has been a powerful advocate in support of LGBT students. He’s the faculty adviser for the campus oSTEM group, and has played a key part in the growth of this organization by supporting the student leader and helping to recruit speakers for events. He has worked with the LGBT Center to help raise awareness of the needs of LGBT scientists among the student body, and recruited straight faculty to attend training sessions on inclusion. When the Physics Department was planning a new building, Tim raised the issue of gender neutral restrooms in a faculty meeting and they are now incorporated into the design. His commitment for inclusion extends beyond LGBT issues. He’s also a strong supporter of the new Women in Physics group and has acted as mentor to the Society of Physics Students group. This willingness to engage and facilitate student networking has been a tremendous asset to his department, improving the learning community at Tufts. Tim is one of the champions within the department for physics education research-based teaching, including use of clickers, class discussion, pre-lecture quizzes (“flipped classroom”) and lecture demonstrations. This style of pedagogy empowers students by placing them at the center of the classroom and allowing the course to adapt to more fully meet their needs. As a particularly collegial member of the faculty, he’s also helped colleagues adapt these practices for their own classes, thus broadening their reach. Highlights of Tim’s classes are documented on his research group website: sites.tufts.edu/softmattertheory

John Burke, 2014 Walt Westman Award Recipient

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John Burke (2nd from left), recipient of the 2014 NOGLSTP Walt Westman Award

Nearly 15 years ago, John Burke pitched a great idea to the NOGLSTP Board to create a recognition awards program to identify, document, and celebrate the contributions of OUTstanding LGBTQ+ science, engineering, and technology professionals. Under John’s stewardship since 2003, the NOGLSTP Recognition Awards Program has honored scientists and engineers for their sustained contribution to their fields in design, management or research. At the time of the program’s initiation, another category of recognition award was created for service to NOGLSTP. Named after one of the founders of NOGLSTP, the prestigious Walt Westman Award recognizes the unselfish and outstanding contributions of the honoree, whose activities – carried on continuously over a period of years – have brought honor and esteem to NOGLSTP. The NOGLSTP Board is pleased to announce that a very surprised John Burke was presented the 2014 Walt Westman Award at the gala awards banquet during the joint meeting of NOGLSTP’s Out to Innovate™ 2014 Summit and oSTEM’s 4th National Conference last November. Because of John’s longtime and hands-on involvement with the NOGLSTP Awards Program, it was no small feat to surprise him! John has a B.S. in Physics, and is an engineering manager at Raytheon in Texas. He has been a NOGLSTP Board Member since the year 2000. He joins Rochelle Diamond (2004), Michael Parga (2006), Chris Bannochie (2007), and Amy Ross (2012) as recipients of this rare award.