BJ Fulton, a staff scientist at NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) at Caltech, is being honored with the 2018 Robert J. Trumpler Award—an honor bestowed by the Astronomical Society for the Pacific (ASP) to the recipient of a "PhD degree in North America whose research is considered unusually important to astronomy."
Fulton received his doctorate from the University of Hawaii in 2017. Part of his graduate research took place at Caltech in the research group of Professor of Astronomy Andrew Howard, who himself moved from the University of Hawaii to Caltech in 2016.
Fulton's thesis revealed that the majority of exoplanets found to date fall into two distinct size groups: rocky Earth-like planets and larger mini-Neptunes. In a 2017 news release, Fulton and his team compared the finding—made using data from NASA's Kepler mission and the W. M. Keck Observatory—to discovering a new branch in the family tree of exoplanets.
"BJ's discovery gets to the heart of exoplanetary science by categorizing planets into their fundamental types," says Howard. "This categorization, in turn, sparked other astronomers to propose physical processes that sculpted the planet population into the types we see today."
Fulton is now a staff scientist at NExScI, which is based at IPAC, a science and data center for astronomy at Caltech. He is the deputy project scientist for the NASA-National Science Foundation Exoplanet Observational Research (NN-EXPLORE) program, which funds and operates the NEID spectrograph.
For more information about the ASP, visit https://www.astrosociety.org.