Planetary Science Institute scientist Grace Wolf-Chase is among the 2024 American Astronomical Society (AAS) Fellows named earlier this year. She was the only one to be named for her unique efforts of sharing astronomical research with diverse religious communities.

Dr. Wolf-Chase, astronomer and public advocate for citizen science and education, has actively forged connections between faith and science for over 20 years. For example, she was keynote at the annual meeting of the Ecumenical Roundtable on Science, Technology and the Church held in 2017 at the Lutheran Center in Chicago (the national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

She currently is a science consultant on the Clergy Letter Project, affiliated faculty member of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), and vice president for Center for Advanced Study in Religion and Science, which is housed at LSTC.

A major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers, the AAS honored 21 members for extraordinary achievement and service by naming them AAS Fellows last month. It is an honor bestowed on less than 0.5% of AAS’s membership each year.

Wolf-Chase was cited for “outstanding and sustained work to bring the wonders of astronomical research to the general public, especially to diverse religious communities; and for significant investigations into bipolar molecular outflows within star-forming regions through multi-wavelength observations and analyses.”

She said the central focus of her career — motivated by the desire to pay forward the critical role informal education played in her love of science — has been bridging the worlds of academic research and public education. Her current research includes data from citizen scientists who have identified stellar nurseries known as “yellowballs,” which are helping Wolf-Chase and her colleagues understand the conditions that lead to the formation of stars that will eventually become supernovae. These supernovae enrich the environments of nearby nascent planetary systems with heavy elements that are necessary for life, according to the team.

Susan Barreto
Susan Barreto

Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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