James L. Elliot (1965) Graduate Student Fellowship in Planetary Science

Honoring a Planetary Science Pioneer and Mentor: A new graduate support fund honors the life and work of James L. Elliot ‘65

The Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) at MIT is where scientists of multiple disciplines collaborate to understand the Earth, Planets, Climate, and Origins of Life. This fusion of disciplines creates a vibrant learning community that prepares EAPS students for out-of-the-box thinking and future leadership.

James Ludlow Elliot (1943 – 2011), professor of planetary astronomy and physics at MIT, left a tremendous legacy: he pioneered the stellar occultation technique that led to the discovery of the rings around Uranus and Pluto’s atmosphere. He also mentored an extraordinary number of planetary scientists including a significant quota of the New Horizons team that masterminded the recent fly-by of Pluto.

The name 'Elliot Crater' is proposed as a major feature on Pluto to honor Elliot’s pioneering body of work on the furthest reaches of our solar system; all names are informal until approved by the International Astronomical Union.

Cathy Olkin ’88, PhD ’96, Deputy Project Scientist on the New Horizons team, and one of Elliot’s former graduate students, along with her husband Terry Olkin ’88, have made the first gift to establish the James L. Elliot (1965) Graduate Student Support Fund in his honor, and they have also made a challenge gift to encourage others to contribute to the fund. They will match all gifts of $1,000 and up to the fund made before October 31, 2016, up to a maximum of $50,000.

“Jim was a wonderful mentor”, remembers Cathy, “we would go for long walks across the river discussing planetary science and specific details of research, then get back to the Green building ready to get to work. Jim instilled in his students the precious nature of telescope time and the importance of planning. This attention to detail has helped me contribute to the success of the New Horizons mission. At least 3 scientists on the New Horizons team were his former students. We think of Jim often and miss him deeply.”

Rob van der Hilst, Head of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), is delighted at the prospect of EAPS first graduate fellowship for planetary sciences in Elliot’s name. “Jim’s commitment to his students – and especially his women students – was second to none. I can’t think of a better moment, or a more fitting way to honor Jim’s memory than by establishing an endowed fellowship in his honor.” Our goal is to raise a total of at least $1M for the James L. Elliot Graduate Student Support Fund so that we can support one graduate fellow per academic year, in perpetuity.

To honor Jim Elliot and to support the next generation of talented planetary scientists on their way to leading future NASA missions, please consider making a gift to the new James L. Elliot (1965) Graduate Student Support Fund! To support the Elliot fund (#3297565), please give online here:
http://bit.ly/eaps-giving

James L. Elliot Graduate Student Support Fund (3297565) supports graduate students in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences with a preference for students in the field of planetary sciences.

Gifts to fund a named Fellow in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences begin at $75,000 and can be endowed at the $1 million level.

Please contact Angela Ellis, EAPS Senior Development Officer at 617-253-5796 or aellis@mit.edu for further information.

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To make a gift to the James L. Elliot Graduate Student Support Fund, please click on the link above.

For more information contact:

Angela Ellis
Senior Development Officer
Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT
aellis@mit.edu
 | 617 253 5796

Professor James Ludlow Elliot was known as one of the great observational planetary astronomers of the modern era. Elliot mentored several of the leading scientists of the NASA New Horizons team that masterminded the recent fly-by of Pluto.

Elliot worked closely with NASA Ames colleagues, and students, making planetary observations from the Kuiper Airborne Observatory plane.

Pluto's atmosphere - first directly detected by Elliot in 1988 - was captured in extreme detail by the NASA New Horizons Mission in 2015.

Teaching the next generation of planetary scientists at the MIT Wallace Observatory.