French Honored in First Class of American Astronomical Society Fellows
Feb. 28, 2020
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Illinois Wesleyan University Professor of Physics Linda French
has been named to the inaugural class of American Astronomical Society (AAS) Fellows
in recognition of her contributions toward the AAS mission of enhancing and sharing
humanity's scientific understanding of the universe.
“I was both honored and humbled to be named a Fellow of the American Astronomical
Society,” French said. “My work as a professor at a small university has involved
teaching, mentoring students, and service to the IWU community and beyond, as well
as research. It is the combination of all these aspects of professional life that
I have found most rewarding in my career, and it is doubly rewarding to be recognized
AAS, the major organization of professional astronomers in North America, established
the new accolade, “Fellow of the AAS,” to honor members for extraordinary achievement and service. An initial group of
more than 200 “Legacy Fellows” –– including French –– was designated by the AAS Board
of Trustees. This group of honorees includes past recipients of certain awards from
the AAS or its topical divisions, distinguished AAS elected leaders and volunteer
committee members, and previously unrecognized individuals with long histories of
outstanding research, teaching, mentoring, and service.
For the past three years, French served as Program Director at the National Science
Foundation (NSF) Division for Astronomical Sciences where she was responsible for
the CAREER program, a highly-prestigious five-year grant for young tenure-track scientists.
French’s additional work with the NSF included organizing panels for review of research
proposals, recruiting panelists, running the panels, and then, evaluating and passing
on the panels' recommendations for funding. French was also responsible for programs
in planetary and stellar astronomy research and in astronomy education.
A native of Hagerstown, Indiana, French earned a bachelor’s degree in astronomy from
Indiana University and a master’s and Ph.D. from Cornell University. She also did
post-doctoral work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
French’s scientific research, funded by the NSF, concerns the study of the shapes
and surfaces of asteroids and comets. A main-belt asteroid, 3506 French, is named
for her. French has also published widely and presented lectures and papers on the
life and work of 18th-century astronomer John Goodricke of York, England.