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LAD Newsletter 4

Welcome to the Fourth Newsletter from the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD). Here we provide information on:

Results of the recent LAD elections
1st Announcement of the Second Laboratory Astrophysics Division meeting
Faraday Discussion Number 168 – Astrochemistry of Dust, Ice and Gas
How AAS members can join the LAD
How non-AAS members can join the LAD Obituary

For up-to-date information, we encourage you to regularly consult the LAD web pages at

Results of the LAD elections

Here are the winners of the recent election for Officers and Members-at-Large on the LAD Committee.

Steven R. Federman (University of Toledo,

Vice Chair:
Farid Salama (NASA Ames Research Center,

R. Paul Drake (University of Michigan,

Daniel Wolf Savin (Columbia University,

John Black (Chalmers University of Technology,
Nancy Janet Chanover (New Mexico State University,
Gianfranco Vidali (Syracuse University,

First Announcement of the Second LAD meeting

The Second LAD meeting will be held jointly with the AAS summer meeting from June 1-5, 2014 at the Westin Copley Place in Boston, MA. Please mark your calendars.

The meeting will feature an AAS plenary speaker in laboratory astrophysics; LAD sessions devoted to atoms, molecules, dust and ices, plasmas, planetary science, nuclear, and particles; and an LAD poster session to run the duration of the meeting. The sessions will include invited 30 minute talks and contributed 15 minute talks. Abstract submission for contributed talks and posters will open around 01 Feb 2014 and run till about 01 Mar 2014.

Additional meeting logistical information will be posted at as it becomes available.

Faraday Discussion Number 168 – Astrochemistry of Dust, Ice and Gas

7 - 9 April 2014, Leiden, The Netherlands

The Universe is littered with the debris of dead and dying stars. This debris includes large quantities of micron and sub-micron size dust grains. For generations astronomers seeking to unravel the complexity of the Universe have been frustrated by such dust blocking their view of many galaxies and the oldest parts of the Universe. However, we now recognise that these dusty regions are in fact the progenitors of evolution in the modern Universe. Rich in chemical complexity, they are known to be the sites of star and planet formation and even the host for molecules that are necessary for the development of life itself.

The young interdisciplinary science of Astrochemistry, lying at the interface of Astronomy, Astrophysics, Physics and Chemistry, has become a critical science in not only elucidating the products, mechanisms and rates of the chemistry that dominates the Universe but also for determining the physical properties of the molecular gas clouds that form stars and planets.

This Faraday discussion meeting aims to address the cyclic role of dust in the chemical evolution of the Universe, from its synthesis in aged and dying stars, through its role in the gas-grain interaction in increasingly dense environments in the interstellar medium (ISM) through to grain-grain collisions and the first steps in the construction of new stars and planetary systems. The scientific programme will bring together leading computational and experimental scientists working to unlock the secrets of the gas-grain interaction with astronomers engaged in observing and understanding star and planet formation and the role of icy dust grains in these processes and potentially chemists and biologists seeking to understand the first tentative steps toward life on our own planet and others! The themes of the discussion will be

Observations on Dust, Ice and Gas relevant to Astrochemistry
Laboratory Astrochemistry of Dust and Ice
Astrophysical Modelling
New Directions in Solid and Surface Astrochemistry

Faraday discussions are a unique scientific event focussing on the state-of-the-art in a particular field at a particular moment in time. They provide an invaluable record of that state-of-the-art and are highly cited. The discussion itself brings together the leading experts in the field which for this discussion includes

Professor Ewine van Dishoeck, The Netherlands
Professor Eric Herbst, USA
Professor Ted Bergin, USA
Dr Herma Cuppen, The Netherlands
Dr Jean-Hugues Fillion, France
Professor Liv Hornekær, Denmark
Professor Nigel Mason, UK
Dr Bérengère Parise, Germany
Dr Klaus Pontoppidan, USA
Professor Helmut Zacharias, Germany

with those at earlier stages in their careers in an open and frank scientific discourse.

The call for oral contributions to this discussion is now open and all groups working in the field of Laboratory Astrophysics, Astrochemistry and Astrobiology are invited to submit abstracts. Abstracts should be submitted to the RSC Events System at The abstracts should be no longer than one A4 page in portrait layout. Please ensure you provide the details of the presenting author. Submitting authors will be notified of the outcome of the review process within about a month of the submission deadline. The Scientific Committee will select contributed papers to complement the invited presentations on the basis of the abstracts received. Authors of the selected abstracts will then be invited to submit their work as a full paper, which will form the basis of their short presentation at the meeting.

Further details can be found at

The deadline for oral abstracts is 15 July 2013


How AAS members can join LAD

The AAS Membership renewal season is still on. Information is available from the AAS webpage

One can also join through the LAD Membership page

When you renew your AAS membership, you will also be able to join the LAD, pay the associated dues, and make donations to the division.

How non-AAS members can join LAD

1. Join the AAS and select the LAD as your division. This is the way to show the strongest possible support for the LAD. If you will be attending LAD or other AAS meetings, then this is also the financially advantageous path. Information is available from the AAS webpage

2. Join the LAD as an affiliate member, if you are a member of another recognized professional organization with interests related to laboratory astrophysics. Those interested in becoming affiliate members can join through the LAD membership page

The Bylaws require that an application for affiliate membership shall be sponsored by at least two regular members of the Division. If you are interested in joining but do not know two LAD members, please submit your application anyway. It will be vetted by the LAD Steering Committee for approval.


Thomas J. Wdowiak

Thomas John Wdowiak passed away at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, AL on April 27, 2013 at the age of 73. He was born in 1939 in Binghamton, NY, where he was inspired to explore science by his uncles who helped him build model rockets and model trains. His uncle Bill Novak would also inspire Tom by telling him true tales of being a WWII navigator on a bomber plane that survived over 22 missions. Ever the budding scientist, Tom built his first chemistry set at the age of 7 and earned the nickname “Tommy Test Tubes” at home (he would later publish a series of science projects for children in the Birmingham News under this name). He went on to study at the University of South Florida and Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 1971. In 1976, after working at IBM and NASA, he joined the faculty in the Department of Physics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he would teach astronomy to thousands of undergraduate students over the next 30 years. Combining his love of astronomy with other interests in chemistry and geology, he explored space from his UAB laboratory, studying the properties of stardust, meteorites, and geologic samples, including what may be micro-fossils from the beginnings of life on Earth. His scientific impact also includes his 5 PhD students and over 120 articles and conference contributions on topics ranging from stellar magnetic fields, to the origin of the K-T event that wiped out the dinosaurs, the composition of interstellar dust, and the mineralogy of the surface of Mars and its implications for life there. Tom was a strong advocate for planetary exploration since at least the 1990s, and he joined the Mars Exploration Rover team that sent a pair of twin rovers in 2004 to explore the red planet. He was on-hand to send the control commands to the rover Spirit when it reached out its robotic arm to study the rock “Adirondack,” and thereby Tom fulfilled his childhood dream of touching another world. He was a firm believer in the need for the expansion of human knowledge in all aspects of nature. He is survived by his mother Julia Kanna, his brother Robert, his wife of 53 years Patricia, his daughters Suzanne Gerakines and Celeste Wdowiak, and his three grandchildren to whom he devoted his later years, Leslie Ariel Schwartz, Stephanie Gerakines, and Patrick Gerakines.

Communicated by Dr. Perry A. Gerakines, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD 20771