ann23011 — Announcement

Mariano Méndez, recipient of the 2023 Jocelyn Bell Burnell Inspiration Medal
10 April 2023
2023 Jocelyn Bell Burnell Inspiration Medal Awarded to Director of IAU Hands-On Workshops, Mariano Méndez

The 2023 Jocelyn Bell Burnell Inspiration Medal has been awarded to Mariano Méndez, an astronomer at the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute in the Netherlands, and Director of the IAU Hands-On Workshops (I-HOW) programme. Méndez receives the award for his work over decades setting up a programme of space-science education in developing countries around the world. The Jocelyn Bell Burnell Inspiration Medal is awarded by the European Astronomical Society in recognition of astronomers at all career stages, whose contributions go beyond their scientific research.

Méndez studied in Argentina, where he obtained his PhD in astronomy cum laude in 1989. He is a full professor in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Groningen, where he has established a new and successful line of research at the Kapteyn Institute.

Besides his academic work, Méndez has dedicated a significant amount of time and energy to developing the I-HOW programme, a series of workshops in space science for early-career scientists in developing countries. He has raised funds totalling around €1 500 000 in the last 10 years from several international organisations, including the Committee On Space Research (COSPAR), the IAU, NASA, ESA, and JAXA, to fund this initiative. Méndez manages the programme on a voluntary basis, without receiving any financial compensation for his efforts, at the same time maintaining a highly productive research career.

The programme consists of a series of two-week-long, hands-on, capacity-building workshops, with participants ranging from master’s students to young staff members. With about three workshops held per year, these sessions have so far trained more than 1500 participants from over 50 different countries globally. The diverse topics covered have ranged from Earth’s surface and atmosphere to space weather and science with small satellites. Participants work on data analysis and science projects under the supervision of senior scientists, who also give their time voluntarily. Méndez himself has taught at about a dozen of these workshops.

Participants are selected on the basis of their scientific merit, measured in the context of their countries of origin. The programme covers participants’ accommodation and meal expenses throughout the two weeks, and in some cases also contributes to travel expenses to enable attendance at the workshop.

Additionally, Méndez manages a fellowship programme for people who have participated in one of these sessions. Within this framework, about a dozen candidates are selected each year to carry out an eight-week visit to the laboratory of one of the lecturers, to finish the project that they had started during the workshop. In total, about 60 such fellowships have been supported so far.

The success of Méndez’s initiative, and its impact on the careers of young scientists in developing countries, has been enormous. The workshops have been a source of inspiration for an entire generation of aspiring astronomers. Many participants have gone on to become high-level officials of national space programmes in their own countries, or established scientists all over the world.

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 12 000 active professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.



Mariano Méndez
I-HOW Director

Lars Lindberg Christensen
IAU Director of Communications
Cell: +1 520 461 0433/+49 173 38 72 621

About the Announcement



Mariano Méndez, recipient of the 2023 Jocelyn Bell Burnell Inspiration Medal