Mayyasi-Matta Receives the 2015 Fred L. Scarf Award

Majd Mayyasi-Matta will receive the Fred L. Scarf Award. She will be formally presented with the award at the 2015 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, to be held 14–18 December in San Francisco, Calif.


Majd Mayyasi-Matta produced a hallmark for a Ph.D. dissertation’s goal.  She pushed the envelope of knowledge outward to explain how the ionosphere of Mars responds to hydrogen in its atmosphere, plasma temperatures far warmer than its neutral gas conditions, and dynamical adjustments due to crustal magnetic fields. These were not merely newer and faster simulations of past single-point observations, but fundamental advances in our understanding of the full diurnal and spatial contexts of driving mechanisms.

—John Clarke, Michael Mendillo, and Paul Withers, Boston University, Boston, Mass.



I have taken a nontraditional path toward a career in science. I started off as a computer engineer and worked in industry for a few years. I started a family and decided life was too short to not be doing what one is most passionate about. For me, it was astronomy. Over 9 years, I pursued the appropriate background: a B.S. in physics, minor in mathematics, a master’s and Ph.D. in astronomy. I am currently settled in academic research trying to improve our understanding of water escape at Mars.

I grew up in a society where women typically did not go into technical fields and, as such, had very few role models to look up to.  The resulting social and time management challenges overshadowed any technical or academic ones. This has cultivated a deep respect and appreciation for my accomplishments and for the mentors who helped me achieve them, namely, my advisers, Michael Mendillo, Paul Withers, and John Clarke. I could not have picked a more personally rewarding career.  I am mindful of my potential and as such have been participating in initiatives that provide underrepresented minority women with mentors and accessible role models in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

I am grateful for the Scarf Award honors recognition that my colleagues and the American Geophysical Union have provided me with. I look forward to the opportunities it will provide.

—Majd Mayyasi-Matta, Boston University, Boston, Mass.