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Astronomy Professor and JPL Historian Win 2018 Guggenheim Fellowships

Shrinivas (Shri) Kulkarni, the George Ellery Hale Professor of Astronomy and Planetary Science at Caltech, and Erik M. Conway, historian for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech for NASA, have been named 2018 Guggenheim Fellows. Every year since 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded scholars, artists, and scientists with the fellowships, which come with an undisclosed amount of money. According to the foundation's website, the fellows are "appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise." This year, 173 fellows were chosen out of 3,000 applicants. 

Born in India and now a U.S. citizen, Kulkarni joined Caltech in 1985. He is a leading authority on exotic astrophysical phenomena such as gamma-ray bursts, brown dwarfs, and millisecond pulsars, and has been associated with many of the major advances in understanding the universe that have been made over the last decade. Kulkarni is the principal investigator behind the Zwicky Transient Facility at the Palomar Observatory—a state-of-the-art instrument that will rapidly scan the skies for objects that explode or otherwise change, such as supernovas and moving asteroids. The Zwicky Transient Facility took its first images in November of last year. Kulkarni is also the director of the Caltech Optical Observatories, which includes Palomar, Caltech's joint role in the W. M. Keck Observatory, and Caltech's joint role in the planned Thirty Meter Telescope. 

Conway has been the historian for JPL since 2004. His work focuses on the intersection between science and technology with an emphasis on aerospace. He is currently completing a history of research in near-Earth objects. His most recent book, Exploration and Engineering: JPL and the Quest for Mars, was published in 2015 by Johns Hopkins University Press. In addition to his work for JPL, Conway co-authored Merchants of Doubtwith Naomi Oreskes. The book chronicles a small group of scientists who helped mislead the public about key findings on global warming, acid rain, and other well-established science topics. 

More information about the Guggenheim Fellowships is online at

Written by Whitney Clavin

Whitney Clavin
(626) 395-1944