Carson Fellowship

The Lt. Col. Kenneth Rondo Carson and Virginia Bryan Carson Graduate Fellowship is an endowment established by the estate of Virginia B. Carson, honoring her husband, a former member of the "Flying Tigers," a former member of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff Strategic Air Command, retired master navigator and enthusiast of space exploration. Colonel Carson greatly admired the professionalism and accomplishments of NASA's space program. The Carson Fellowship is awarded to students pursuing degrees in the Department of Planetary Sciences, Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, selected on the basis of academic achievement and the promise of further scholarly endeavor.


  2013 Carson Fellowship Awarded to Tad Komacek

Tad Komacek is the recipient of the 2013 Carson Fellowship Award, which provides one academic year of support, including salary, tuition, and a small supply/travel stipend. Tad is in his first semester of graduate studies at LPL.

Tad graduated from Harriton High School in Rosemont, PA in 2009. He attended the University of Chicago from 2009-2013, graduating with a B.S. in Geophysical Sciences (with honors) and a B.A. in Physics with a specialization in Astrophysics. His research interests are in the formation and evolution of planets and planetary systems, specifically obtaining knowledge by developing theoretical models and comparing their results with data. He has related interests in stellar astrophysics, geophysical modeling, atmospheric dynamics, and orbital dynamics, all of which are useful when studying the evolution of planetary systems.

Tad's interest in science began at an early age—he credits his 5th grade teacher, Ms. Peggy Glackman, for sparking that interest. Tad remembers that "she focused on space science in her science curriculum, with a large focus on human exploration and the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. We built model rockets, talked with an astronaut (Mr. Joe Tanner), discussed the possibilities of human spaceflight, learned about the pathfinder mission to Mars, put our names on the Stardust spacecraft, among many other activities related to space. She also had a large repository of space-related books, of which I read as many as I could. Of course, I was taken by all of the possibilities in space sciences, and mixed with my involvement in Science Olympiad from middle school through high school (which only further piqued my interest). I decided early on in high school to study astrophysics in college. Ms. Glackman received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2011, which I suppose helps people believe me when I say how great of a teacher she is.  Thanks to my experiences, I have been inspired to give back to students and currently co-supervise the Astronomy event at the National Science Olympiad."

While in high school, Tad participated in the QuarkNet program at the University of Pennsylvania High Energy Physics department  and worked in the Astrophysics department under supervision of Dr. James Aguirre. As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, Tad worked with Dr. David Rowley on stable isotope paleoaltimetry of the Himalayas and obtaining time-temperature distributions of apatites through inverse modeling of fission track datasets.  Also at Chicago, Tad worked with LPL alumnus Dr. Fred Ciesla on a B.S. thesis in Geophysical Sciences, which modeled oblique impacts into porous planetesimals.

Tad is currently working on modeling the effects of ohmic dissipation in hot Jupiter atmospheres, being advised by Dr. Tamara Rogers and collaborating with Dr. Adam Showman. Regarding future career plans, Tad says, "As I greatly enjoy both research and teaching, the best confluence of my interests would be to attain a tenure-track faculty position somewhere down the road.  I really enjoy academics, and could not see myself leaving the field.  One step at a time, though!"