iau2407 — Press Release

IAU ODE Prizes 2024
11 June 2024
IAU Announces Winners of 2024 Prizes for Astronomy Outreach, Development and Education
The ODE Prizes, which are awarded every three years, will be presented at the IAU XXXII General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, in August 2024

The IAU has announced the 2024 winners of three IAU prizes that were created in 2022: the IAU Astronomy Outreach Prize, the IAU Astronomy Development Prize and the IAU Astronomy Education Prize.

The IAU Astronomy Outreach, Development and Education (ODE) Prizes have been created with generous funding from IAU Past President Ewine van Dishoeck. The three awards recognise individuals and organisations who have made outstanding contributions to the fields of astronomy outreach, development and education.

In February 2024, the second call for nominations went out with a deadline of 15 March 2024. A total of 62 valid nominations were received, with both the nominators and nominees spanning the entire globe.

Following the recommendation by the ODE Prize Committees, the IAU Executive Committee approved the following nominees to win the 2024 set of prizes:

Outreach: Saran Poshyachinda
Development: Central American-Caribbean Bridge in Astrophysics (Cenca Bridge)
Education: Linda Strubbe and Bonaventure Okere

The awards will be presented at the IAU XXXII General Assembly (IAUGA2024) in Cape Town, South Africa, in August. Brief commendations for each of the winners are below.

IAU Astronomy Outreach Prize

The 2024 ODE Outreach Prize is awarded to Saran Poshyachinda for his vision and passionate leadership in creating a world-leading outreach and education programme in Thailand. Saran’s most noteworthy achievement is the establishment of the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) in 2009 and the formation and expansion of the NARIT outreach team that has transformed Thailand’s astronomical landscape and brought astronomy to the public at large. Before NARIT, there was no adequate astronomy institute in Thailand, so Saran chose to pursue chemistry as his profession while keeping astronomy as a hobby since his childhood. The NARIT outreach team now reaches 700 000 people annually, including disadvantaged and physically challenged groups in society, more than any other research organisation in Thailand. Saran planned and established five Regional Public Observatories throughout the country, enabling the general public to access telescopes and facilitating teacher training programmes in various regions and neighbouring countries. He also established the hugely popular Princess Sirindhorn AstroPark, and played a key role in making the 2.4m Thai National Telescope and the 40m Thai National Radio Telescope a reality. In light of these achievements, alongside Saran's successful advocacy for including astronomy topics in the national science curriculum, his impact in increasing awareness of astronomy throughout Thailand is immeasurable.

Saran Poshyachinda said: “I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive the ODE Prize. This prestigious recognition is not just a personal achievement but a testament to the collaborative efforts and unwavering support of my colleagues. Moreover, it underscores the importance of astronomy outreach in Thailand. Promoting scientific curiosity and education in our communities can inspire the next generation of astronomers and scientists, fostering a culture of exploration and discovery. Thank you for this incredible honour. I am profoundly grateful and look forward to contributing even more to our community.”

IAU Astronomy Development Prize

The 2024 ODE Development Prize is awarded to Cenca Bridge. The Central American Caribbean Bridge in Astrophysics (Cenca Bridge) programme, co-led by Antonio Porras Valverde, Gloria Fonseca Alvarez, Valeria Hurtado, and Yahira Mendoza Moncada, has had a unique and transformative impact on the ability of undergraduate students in the Central America-Caribbean region to engage in astronomical research and capacity building using astronomy as a tool. Cenca Bridge is a well-conceived and well-executed platform for remote astronomy research and has paved the way for an impressive number of opportunities for aspiring astrophysicists across Central America and the Caribbean who have had very few opportunities before. Its students apply successfully to graduate programmes worldwide, not only in astronomy, but also in other STEM subjects. In addition to advancing the frontiers of astrophysical research, Cenca Bridge has also fostered a culture of collaboration, mentorship, and inclusivity within the astronomical community.

The Cenca Bridge project team said: “We thank the IAU ODE prize committee for commending our work on developing astronomy education and research in Central America and the Caribbean. This prize recognises Cenca Bridge, an organisation led by early career scientists from Central America and the Caribbean, whose mission is to uplift the region’s astronomy research opportunities and showcase our unique strengths to the world.

IAU Astronomy Education Prize

The 2024 ODE Education prize is awarded to Linda Strubbe and Bonaventure Okere for their leadership in creating high-quality educational experiences in astronomy for African university students. Bonaventure Okere led the foundation of the Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers (PASEA) at the IAU XXVIII General Assembly in Beijing to improve STEM education in Nigeria and Africa. Linda Strubbe has been central in creating very high-quality educational experiences in PASEA through her design, leadership, and teaching. Her work draws on a particularly strong evidence base across the educational curriculum, from professional development for PASEA instructors to the evaluation of student learning. The inquiry-based curriculum intertwines teaching content with scientific practices, and is highly regarded by students, building on Bonaventure Okere’s vision of leveraging the world-class astronomy facilities on the continent. The instructors, two thirds of whom are African, are given specific training in inquiry-based learning, interactive strategies, and group discussion, including through paired teaching. The teaching skills they learn are applicable well beyond their PASEA activities, and support them within the broader undergraduate teaching landscape across Africa. Participants’ learning in the course is measured with tools such as the Astronomy Diagnostic Test and the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS). A survey of PASEA alumni indicates that almost all student participants now teach or work in STEM, and 88% said PASEA was very influential for their career choice. PASEA has now trained some 300 students across 18 African countries, with the sixth school being held in Tunisia this year. The impact of Linda Strubbe’s and Bonaventure Okere’s initiative, leadership, and excellence in implementing PASEA is already enormous, and will continue to grow into the future.

Bonaventure Okere said: “With the many observatories across Africa, I have always pondered how I can contribute to the development of astronomers from Africa who will play key roles in these observatories, especially researchers who will utilise the terabyte data being generated. The collaborative journey to build a critical mass of astronomers across Africa which began in 2012 led to the Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers. I feel deeply humbled and honoured to receive this prize for Team PASEA.

Linda Strubbe added: “I feel really honoured, grateful, and excited to receive this award from the IAU for PASEA. PASEA is truly a team effort, so we celebrate this award with our fellow co-directors, our instructor team, and our inspiring students and alumni from around the African continent. For me personally, I love helping students follow their curiosity about the Universe, and collaborate with others to solve astronomy questions they're excited about. I also love helping instructors learn new ways of teaching astronomy. I hope this recognition from the IAU may strengthen all efforts working towards Astronomy for Development in Africa.

Ewine van Dishoeck said: “The high number and quality of nominations for the ODE prizes is heartwarming, with so many excellent initiatives across the world. Whereas the 2022 prizes celebrated global efforts, the 2024 winners have made outstanding contributions and impact in their regions, from South-East Asia to Central America - Caribbean to Africa. I am particularly pleased that the efforts and initiatives by junior members are also recognised.

Further information on eligibility, the definitions of each area and the selection process for the prizes can be found here

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.



Ewine van Dishoeck
Past President of the IAU
Email: ewine@strw.leidenuniv.nl

Lina Canas
IAU Membership Coordinator
Email: lina.canas@iau.org

Guido Schwarz
IAU Press Officer
Email: iaupressoffice@iau.org


IAU ODE Prizes 2024