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4 min read

NASA Scientists from Goddard, Johnson Centers Elected as AGU Fellows

Matthew Rodell portrait with green trees as backdrop
Matthew Rodell Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/W. Hrybyk
Wei-Kuo Tao
Wei-Kuo Tao Credits: courtesy Wei-Kuo Tao
Michael Zolensky, photographed against a black background.
Michael Zolensky Credits: NASA

NASA scientists Matthew Rodell and Wei-Kuo Tao, both of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as well as Michael Zolensky, of Johnson Space Center in Houston, have been elected as American Geophysical Union (AGU) fellows, three of 54 individuals in the 2022 class. The union said Rodell, Tuo, and Zolensky were selected for their outstanding achievements and contributions by pushing forward the frontiers of science.

According to the award letter, they also embody AGU’s vision of a thriving, sustainable, and equitable future powered by discovery, innovation, and action. Equally important is that they have conducted themselves with integrity, respect, and collaboration while creating deep engagement in education, diversity, and outreach.

Rodell, deputy director of Earth sciences for the Hydrosphere, Biosphere, and Geophysics Laboratories at Goddard, holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental science from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and a Ph.D. in geological sciences from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to his work as deputy director, Rodell leads several projects, including one focused on improving a simulation of irrigated agriculture in computer models.

“I’ve been a member of AGU since 1996, and most of my Earth science heroes are AGU fellows, so joining them as a fellow feels like an amazing honor,” said Rodell. “I’m grateful to the scores of scientists with whom I’ve collaborated over the years and to the people who nominated me.”

Tao, emeritus senior research scientist at Goddard, focused his research on topics like aerosols, clouds, precipitation, and models that integrated those topics into climate studies. Throughout his time at Goddard, Tao contributed to projects such as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, and the Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction (MAP) program. Tao holds a bachelor’s degree from National Central University in Taiwan as well as a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I am honored to be elected as an AGU 2022 fellow,” said Tao. “I am also honored to have worked at NASA Goddard for 40 years. NASA Goddard provided a good environment to make me a better scientist.”

In addition to the two Goddard scientists, AGU also elected Johnson Space Center scientist Michael E. Zolensky. Zolensky is both an astromaterial curator and researcher. He is curator of NASA Stardust, Hayabusa, and spacecraft microimpact samples, and works on the characterization of the chemical weathering record of asteroids and their associated meteorites, and the primitive mineralogy of comets. Zolensky is currently leading efforts to locate and characterize aqueous fluid inclusions in astromaterials. He has led or participated in successful meteorite recovery expeditions on five continents and served on the science teams for four astromaterials sample return spacecraft missions. Zolensky is a past president of The Meteoritical Society and an awardee of that society’s Leonard Medal. He is the namesake of minor planet 6030/Zolensky and the mineral Zolenskyite.

Since 1962, the AGU Union Fellows Committee has selected less than 0.1% of members as new fellows and annually recognizes a select number of individuals as part of its Honors and Recognition program.

AGU supports members, from enthusiasts to experts, worldwide in Earth and space sciences, helping to advance discovery and solution-based science that is ethical, unbiased, and respectful of communities and their values. Their programs include serving as a scholarly publisher, convening virtual and in-person events, and providing career support.

AGU will formally recognize this year’s recipients during the nonprofit’s annual Fall Meeting, Dec. 12-16, in Chicago and online.

Jake Richmond
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.