From UCSC: Women in STEM – “Astronomer Ruth Murray-Clay appointed to chair in theoretical astrophysics”

UC Santa Cruz

UC Santa Cruz

March 03, 2017
Tim Stephens

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Astrophysicist Ruth Murray-Clay gave a brief overview of her research on planetary systems at the investiture ceremony. (Photos by Steve Kurtz)

Ruth Murray-Clay, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, was honored as the inaugural holder of the E. K. Gunderson Family Chair in Theoretical Astrophysics at an investiture ceremony on Wednesday, March 1, at the University Center.

The chair was established in 2016 with a $160,000 gift from James L. Gunderson and Valerie J. Boom to support recruitment of a faculty member in astronomy and astrophysics. The chair honors the work of Gunderson’s father, a psychologist whose work on human adaptation to confined and extreme conditions was used by NASA in understanding the implications of space travel.

Murray-Clay studies the formation and evolution of the solar system and of planetary systems around other stars. She explores a broad range of physical processes that contribute to the ultimate structure of planetary systems, including the evolution of the protoplanetary disk, planet formation, gravitational dynamics, and the evolution of atmospheres. She also studies objects in the outer reaches of our solar system for clues to its dynamical evolution.

“I am excited and honored to be here and to be the recipient of this chair,” said Murray-Clay, who joined the UCSC astronomy faculty in 2016. She received her bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy at Harvard University and her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in astrophysics at UC Berkeley. In 2015, Murray-Clay won the Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy, which recognizes the exceptional contributions of astronomers under the age of 36.

Increasing support for faculty chairs is a priority of the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz, which has raised $311 million for the campus. The Gunderson Family Chair in Theoretical Astrophysics is a four-year term chair (not an endowed chair) specially designed to augment the startup funding the campus provides for new faculty. Paul Koch, dean of physical and biological sciences, said such chairs provide important support for a new faculty member’s research and graduate students. “The support from these chairs allows us to be competitive and attract the best faculty,” he said.

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The University of California, Santa Cruz, opened in 1965 and grew, one college at a time, to its current (2008-09) enrollment of more than 16,000 students. Undergraduates pursue more than 60 majors supervised by divisional deans of humanities, physical & biological sciences, social sciences, and arts. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master’s degrees, or doctoral degrees in more than 30 academic fields under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans. The dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering oversees the campus’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs.

UCSC is the home base for the Lick Observatory.

The UCO Lick  C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, California
The UCO Lick C. Donald Shane telescope is a 120-inch (3.0-meter) reflecting telescope located at the Lick Observatory, Mt Hamilton, in San Jose, CaliforniaUC Observatories Lick Automated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USA
UC Observatories Lick Automated Planet Finder, fully robotic 2.4-meter optical telescope at Lick Observatory, situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, California, USAUCO Lick Kast Spectrograph, Lick Observatory, Mt Hamiton, CA, USA

Lick Observatory's Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building
Lick Observatory’s Great Lick 91-centimeter (36-inch) telescope housed in the South (large) Dome of main building

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