USU Space Dynamics Lab Scientist Receives Governor's Medal

Utah State University
November 15, 2007
Tom Wilkerson

Space Dynamics Lab physicist Tom Wilkerson is a 2007 recipient of the Governor's Medal for Science and Technology.

Utah State University research professor Tom Wilkerson, a senior scientist with the university’s Space Dynamics Laboratory, is a recipient of the 2007 Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology.

Wilkerson, who serves on the faculty of USU’s Department of Physics and its Center for Atmospheric and Space Sciences, received the award during a Nov. 13 ceremony hosted by Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr. at Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium.

The state of Utah awards the Governor's Medal to recognize individuals who have provided distinguished service to the state of Utah in the fields of science and technology. It is the highest honor awarded by Utah for scientific and technological achievements.

Wilkerson is an internationally recognized expert in the use of lasers to perform remote sensing of the atmosphere – known as light detection and ranging or LIDAR. Wilkerson has focused much of his 50-year career on characterizing molecular and particulate matter in the atmosphere and determining how these atmospheric constituents are influenced by human activities.

In conjunction with USU, SDL has deep expertise in LIDAR applications, fostered in no small part by Wilkerson’s expertise, said his colleagues.

“I have seen first hand Tom's love of science,” said Jed Hancock, SDL engineer. “He consistently sets an example of creativity and professional integrity. He is always mentoring and seeking success for the students and colleagues he works with.”

Throughout his career and his many personal achievements, Wilkerson has maintained a commitment to mentoring young scientists. His former students include a Nobel Prize winner and a Fulbright Scholarship recipient. Wilkerson also shares his passion for science with K-12 students.

USU alum Jan Marie Andersen, a former student of Wilkerson, received a Fulbright scholarship to study physics at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute. Andersen credits much of her success to Wilkerson.

“Tom has definitely been one of the most influential people in my physics career, and I owe much of where I am today to his mentoring and teaching,” she said.

At Wilkerson’s urging, his students call him ‘Tom,’ Andersen said. “The relationship that Tom has with us is much more than just a teacher/student or supervisor/employee relationship. As Tom's students, we know that he cares about us—both our academic careers and our lives.”

Andersen, who is from California, credits USU’s research focus for her decision to come to Logan. “Working with Tom Wilkerson at the Space Dynamics Lab has given me an opportunity and experience I couldn't have found anywhere else. One of the reasons that I chose to go to Utah State is because of their emphasis on research, and I couldn't have asked for a better research mentor than Tom Wilkerson.”

Wilkerson has been a senior scientist at SDL since 1997 and with USU’s physics department since 1994. Prior to his arrival at Utah State, he held positions at the University of Maryland and at Princeton University.

The Governor’s Medal award program was initiated in 1987. The awards are made in four categories: Academia, Science Education, Industry, and Government.

© 2007 – Utah State University