Patrick O'Brien Wins Kuiper Award
Patrick O'Brien earned his Ph.D. from LPL in December 2022 with a dissertation on The Rise and Fall of Lunar Topography, research which combined theoretical models, high-performance parallel computing, and planetary topography data from Mercury, Ceres, and the Moon. As a student, Patrick developed and combined models of landscape evolution, remote-sensing data processing techniques, and high-performance computing to devise novel approaches for advancing lunar science. In 2020, he developed a landscape evolution model of the lunar surface that answered questions about the rate of space weathering on the lunar surface. Patrick's research as to the source of topographic diffusion of the lunar landscape led to discoveries that updated the canonical model with findings describing diffusivity as both anomalous and non-linear, and that the smallest impactors control the impact-driven diffusion rate. Finally, during his graduate career, Patrick produced the most detailed maps of permanent shadow on the Moon and for the first time cataloged the locations of doubly permanently shadowed regions.
While at LPL, Patrick became known to the planetary science community by participating in opportunities like a JPL Planetary Science Summer School and attending Dawn spacecraft mission team meetings. Patrick presented his work at many professional meetings and participated in outreach events and university service projects like Project POEM, which seeks to foster interest in STEM careers for visually impaired middle and high school students. He acted as a mentor within the UArizona TIMESTEP program, which engages minority students in STEM research. He was also interested in student governance and served as the College of Science representative to the Graduate and Professional Student Council and as the student representative on the committee to select a new Dean for the College of Science.
The Gerard P. Kuiper Memorial Award is presented to students who best exemplify, through the high quality of their research and the excellence of their scholastic achievements, the goals and standards established and maintained by Gerard P. Kuiper, founder of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. To support students with the Kuiper Award, visit the University of Arizona Foundation.