Astrobiologist Rebecca Rapf presented with the inaugural Maggie C. Turnbull Early Career Award

Rebecca Rapf, a postdoctoral scholar in physical chemistry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is the first recipient honored with the newly created Maggie C. Turnbull Award for community service.

Rapf was selected from a group of 10 early career astrobiologists nominated by their peers based on their outstanding dedication to education, outreach, community engagement and professional service to the early career community. The award commemorates Margaret "Maggie" C. Turnbull, a pioneer in exoplanet research and the search for life in the universe and founder of the Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon), now in its 14th year of existence.

"I am honored and touched to receive the inaugural Maggie C. Turnbull Astrobiology Community Service Award. AbGradCon 2014 was my very first scientific conference, and, from Day 1, I felt like I belonged in the room," Rapf said. "I’m proud to do my bit in extending the same welcome to others that was given to me by so many people in this field, including my fellow nominees. The inclusivity, equitable playing field, and lack of competition are what make AbGradCon unique, and our continued focus should be on welcoming newcomers into our community."

Rapf received her PhD in 2017 from University of Colorado, Boulder. Her dissertation research involved the study of the photochemistry of organic molecules and its relevance to both the modern and early Earth using mass spectrometry.

The Award was presented during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Astrobiology Graduate Conference at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The University of California, Berkeley SETI Research Center (BSRC) sponsored the award.
"The community is deeply indebted to Rebecca for all the work she has done and continues to do for us," said Jay Kroll, a fellow member on the AbGradCon organising team and a recent postdoc scholar at Emory. "She has been instrumental in organizing and maintaining the AbGradCon program for the last 3 years and is continuing her work."

Andrew Siemion, Director of the BSRC added: "We are thrilled to partner with AbGradCon to honor Dr. Turnbull, for her impressive contributions to SETI as well as her leadership in founding the Astrobiology Graduate Conference. Dr. Rapf is an exceptional scientist, and we are pleased to recognize her contributions to Astrobiology and its early career community."

The Berkeley SETI Research Center (BSRC) is based in the Astronomy Department at the University of California, Berkeley. BSRC conducts research into the prevalence of intelligent life in the universe, principally through searches for evidence of distant technologies ("technosignatures"). The BSRC is the headquarters of the Breakthrough Listen Initiative, the most comprehensive, sensitive and intensive search for extraterrestrial intelligence in history.

For media inquiries: Kennda Lynch - Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology and AbGradCon alumni advisor of AbGradCon '18 -, (281) 813-1385.


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