Niebur Award

About the Award

The Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award is an annual award given by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to an investigator who is within ten years of receiving their PhD and has made significant contributions to the exploration science communities. The prize is presented, along with an invited lecture, at the annual NASA Exploration Science Forum.

About Susan Mahan Niebur

Trained as an astrophysicist, Susan Mahan Niebur (1978-2012) was a former Discovery Program Scientist at NASA. Niebur went to NASA Headquarters straight out of graduate school as a Presidential Management Intern in what is now NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. She worked at NASA Headquarters for 5 years and initiated the first ever Early Career Fellowship and the annual Early Career Workshop to help new planetary scientists break into the field. Her focus on the special challenges faced by young researchers was acknowledged in 2011 with the Public Service Award from the NASA Planetary Science Division for her “exemplary leadership abilities [that] have helped many women in the field, both planetary and astrophysics.” Her research was complemented by her outreach efforts, which included a series of interviews and community-building at Women in Planetary Science. Niebur was a shining example of courage. She shared honesty and showed hope in the most difficult of predicaments. Susan’s mantra was “All that survives after our death are publications and people. So look carefully after the words you write, the thoughts and publications you create, and how you love others. For these are the only things that will remain.” She will be remembered for her untiring work at bringing people together and finding ways to help everyone live up to their potential; for the passion and incredible energy she brought to everything she did; for the constant encouragement and inspiration she provided to others; and for her wonderful and unfailing smile.

Call for Nominations

The Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award is open to early career researchers involved with lunar and planetary exploration science. Nominees should be researchers who are ten years or less from their Masters or PhD and have shown excellence in their field or demonstrated meaningful contributions to the exploration science community. Nominations for the Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award should summarize contributions of the nominee and succinctly state the qualifications and rationale for their selection (2000 characters).

Nominations are welcome from anyone at any time, but should be submitted no later than March 31 for consideration in that calendar year. Nominees do not need to reside in the U.S. nor be a U.S. citizen; nor do they need to be a member of SSERVI Teams. Nominees who are not initially selected will automatically become candidates for the following two years if they still meet the award criteria.

Previous Awardees of the Susan Mahan Niebur Early Career Award

Past Winners

Simone Marchi 2014
Katherine Joy 2014
Jacob Bleacher 2015
Noah Petro 2016
Adrienne Dove 2017
Samuel Lawrence 2017
Rachel Klima 2018
Debra Needham 2019
Amy Fagan 2020
Ryan Watkins 2020
Parvathy Prem 2021
Shuai Li 2021
Kelsey Young 2022
Orenthal J. Tucker 2022
Julie Stopar 2023
Kerri Donaldson Hanna 2023