NRL Scientist Honored in Naming of Astronomical Body

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) physicist, Dr. Rhonda Stroud, head, Nanoscale Materials Section, has been honored by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) with the naming of minor planet, asteroid 1981 EA40, '8468 Rhondastroud.'

Asteroid 1981 EA40 is a main-belt minor planet in a non Earth-crossing orbit, discovered by Schelte J. Bus at the Siding Spring Observatory near Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia, on March 2, 1981.

Dr. Rhonda Stroud Head of NRL's Nanoscale Materials Section, Dr. Rhonda Stroud receives the honor of being forever acknowledged by novice and professional astronomers alike as '8468 Rhondastroud.'
(U.S. Naval Research Laboratory - Jamie Hartman)

Co-nominated by Dr. Timothy McCoy, geologist and curator of meteorites at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) - responsible for tabulating positions and velocities of orbiting bodies - recognizes Stroud for seminal contributions to our understanding of the origin and evolution of our solar system through transmission electron microscopy studies of meteoritic and cometary materials.

In accordance with the IAU, the international authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies since 1919, the discoverer of a particular object has the privilege of suggesting a name, except their own, to a special committee of the IAU that judges its suitability.

Beginning with the discovery of a minor planet that cannot be identified with any already-known object, the body is given a provisional designation. The provisional designation is based on the date of discovery and assigned by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) according to a well-defined formula that involves the year of discovery, two letters and further digits if necessary, as in, 1981 EA40.

When the orbit of a minor planet becomes well enough determined that the position can be reliably predicted far into the future, typically after the minor planet has been observed at four or more oppositions, the body receives a permanent designation number issued sequentially by MPC, in this case, identification 2008468 of the NASA Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF).

When a minor planet receives a permanent number, the discoverer has this privilege to suggest, or provide recommendations, for naming the object after it is numbered.

Joining NRL in 1996 as a National Research Council (NRC) Cooperative Research Associate, Stroud has contributed broadly to the advancement of materials physics research in such diverse areas as quasicrystals, aerogel-based nanocomposites, spin-polarized materials and remnant cosmic dust from the formation of the solar system. Stroud's initial work as staff member at NRL was critical to the development of tunable nano-architectures based on silica aerogel, resulting in four patents, and it was her Ph.D. thesis that led to the discovery of the first stable Ti-based quasicrystal. The focus of her recent research has been on determining the crystal structures of dust grains that condense in the outflow of stars pre-dating the sun.

Those in the planetary materials community consider Stroud a pioneer in the development of focused ion beam microscopy techniques for coordinated structure-isotope-chemistry studies of nanoscale grains. Her work resulted in confirmation that dust condensation around Asymptotic Giant Branch (AGB) stars follows the predicted thermodynamic equilibrium pathway. She has also contributed to the analysis of comet dust from the NASA Stardust Mission, the first solid sample return mission since the Apollo era, and is currently leading the effort to analyze interstellar dust impacts on Al foils from Stardust interstellar collector.

Stroud's pioneering work has garnered her many awards, including election to fellowship in the American Physical Society in 2010, the 2003 Sigma Xi NRL Edison Chapter Young Investigator Award, recognizing her work as the best among NRL scientists within ten years of Ph.D. completion. Additionally, she has received three Alan Berman Publication Awards at NRL; the National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship Award; and the Olin Graduate Fellowship and National Need Fellowship from Washington University.

In addition to her research, Stroud has consistently made time for service to the larger community, including: leading both the NRL Women in Science and Engineering Network and the Edison Sigma Xi Chapter; chairing the NASA Management Oversight Working Group for Cosmochemistry, serving on review committees for NASA Cosmochemistry and SRLIDAP programs, the Materials Division at Argonne National Laboratory, and DOE electron microscopy user facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; serving on the NASA Stardust sample allocation sub-committee; and mentoring emerging women scientists through MentorNet the past eight years.

Stroud received a bachelor of art in physics in 1991 from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, and doctor of philosophy in physics in 1996 from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. She has amassed well over 140 publications with an h-index of 34, as determined by ISI Web-of-Science.