McGraw Awarded Leif Andersson Award for Service and Outreach

The LPL Andersson Award for Service and Outreach is awarded annually to a PTYS graduate student in recognition for attention to broader impacts and involvement in activities outside of academic responsibilities that benefit the department, university, and the larger community. The award is named for Dr. Leif Andersson, a scientist who worked at LPL in the 1970s.

2020 Andersson Award to Allison McGraw

This year's Leif Andersson Award for Service and Outreach was presented to Allison McGraw. Allison was also the recipient of the 2020 LPL College of Science Service Award.

Allison is a third-year graduate student at LPL. She has been active in public outreach since her days as an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, when she worked at Kitt Peak National Observatory as a public program specialist, conducting nightly telescopic observing programs and teaching visitors about Earth’s atmosphere, planets, telescopes and the many astronomical objects in the night sky to the public. As a graduate student, Allison has continued to grow her service portfolio. She was selected to be a Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Graduate Intern with the Space Studies Board, The National Academies of Sciences, in Washington, D.C. This experience provided Allison with a unique, policy-informed perspective that she applies as she engages larger communities, and also show her willingness to communicate science to public audiences.

Allison regularly leads and participates with LPL outreach activities, including outreach to local schools and support for events like Tucson Festival of Books. She is also an OSIRIS-REx Ambassador, communicating the science of the sample return mission to varied audiences. Allison has brought OSIRIS-REx outreach activities, including meteorites and cratering kits, to venues like libraries as well as more traditional events like Spacefest. In 2019, Allison won a UA NASA Space Grant Graduate Fellowship with her proposal for developing a full-dome planetarium show about meteorites. 

Some of Allison’s most impressive and creative efforts and service to outreach are evidenced in her recent role as coordinator for the graduate-student-run art show, The Art of Planetary Science (TAPS). Allison not only took on the formidable task of event logistics but also expanded the program's scope and vision by including family friendly activities such as hosting telescopes for night time stargazing and the “Physics is Fun” bus on the UA Mall; the event also featured a local rock band beneath the Kuiper “Moon Tree” and digital submissions displayed on the planetarium dome at the Flandrau Planetarium and Science Center, with an introduction by a local space artist. The result was a festival feeling with something for everyone to enjoy.

Allison long-standing commitment and enthusiasm on behalf of public education and outreach truly represent the spirit and intent of the Andersson Award.