Hayes Receives 2012 Ronald Greeley Early Career Award in Planetary Science

Alexander G. Hayes Jr. received the 2012 Ronald Greeley Early Career Award in Planetary Science at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting, held 3–7 December in San Francisco, Calif. The award recognizes significant early-career contributions to planetary science.


HayesThe first Ronald Greeley Early Career Award in Planetary Science is presented to Alex Hayes, an assistant professor of astronomy at Cornell University. He received his Ph.D. from Caltech and did a postdoc at Berkeley. His record is impressive, and he is very well suited to be the first Greeley Award winner; he has a mix of science and engineering experience and training, leading to special insights into how to best optimize use of spacecraft data to make scientific breakthroughs. Among a group of highly qualified nominees for the first Greeley Award, Alex’s accomplishments clearly stood out—he has already coauthored more than 40 papers.

Alex uses spacecraft-based remote sensing to study the properties of planetary surfaces and their interactions with the interior and atmospheres, with a recent focus on Titan and Mars. Titan is the only planetary object besides Earth that supports standing bodies of liquid on its surface. Alex uses the Cassini Radar to study and model surface morphologies on icy satellites, including the distribution and evolution of Titan’s hydrocarbon lakes and seas. His first paper became a common reference for Titan’s northern lake distribution because Alex carefully and systematically mapped their distribution and classified them into types that have now become standard. He is also interested in studying the depositional and diagenetic history of early Mars, leveraging data from the Mars Exploration rovers and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

But in fact, the best words I can use to describe Alex come from his nominators. Here is just a taste of what they had to say:
“Alex is unquestionably one of the most exciting new planetary science Ph.D.s in the world. He is particularly prominent in ­mission-­related science (as was Ron Greeley), notably the lakes and morphology of Titan. From personal experience, I can say that Alex is unusually interactive, insightful, and engaged on just about any issue having to do with planetary geology, especially morphology.”

“He has an unquenchable curiosity, performs to the highest standards that one can expect, and will unquestionably emerge as one of most influential planetary scientists of his generation. While his natural abilities are all very strong, perhaps his most notable attribute is his tenacious drive to learn.”

“In addition to Alex’s accomplishments, I think he is a particularly appropriate candidate for the first Greeley award because of some surprising similarities between them…Like Ron, Alex started out working on Mars. Later, Ron considered wind speeds necessary to lift grains on Mars; Alex considered winds necessary to raise waves on Titan. Both studied dunes. Both used radar to probe planetary surfaces. Both wrote about icy satellites. Comparing their early careers, they were both astonishingly productive.”
Congratulations to the winner of the first Ronald Greeley Early Career Award in Planetary Science, Alex Hayes.

—LAURIE A. LESHIN, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Loudonville, N. Y.


I am deeply honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Ronald Greeley Early Career Award. Ron was an icon in the field of planetary science, and the establishment of this award is a fitting way to pay tribute to his legacy. I applaud Laurie Leshin, Bill Mc­Kinnon, and the rest of the AGU Planetary Science section officers and selection committee for taking the time to organize this memorial. Ron is remembered not only for his fundamental scientific contributions but also for his mentorship and support of early-career scientists, both his own students and postdocs and those of his colleagues.

Though I never worked with Ron directly, he always took the time, whether we met at a conference or a Viennese concert, to stop what he was doing and ask me how things were going. It is in the same spirit that I would like to thank my mentors and colleagues who have provided the opportunities that I have been able to take advantage of. This includes my undergraduate advisors Steve Squyres and Jim Bell, who continue to support me to this day, as well as the entire Mars Exploration rover science team, notably including Ken Herkenhoff, Phil Christensen, and John Grotzinger.

I must also extend my most heartfelt gratitude to the Cassini Radar Science Team and Charles Elachi for not only developing a world-class instrument but welcoming me into their family and actually letting me use it from time to time. Most important, however, I must acknowledge my nominator and graduate advisor Oded Aharonson, who I count not only as a mentor but also as a friend. This memorial award is about these people and the connections we all enjoy in this community. Thank you.

—ALEXANDER G. HAYES JR., Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y.