Awarded annually since 1955, the two-year fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as the next generation of scientific leaders.
In nominating Baranec for the award, Institute for Astronomy Director Güenther Hasinger said, “Dr. Baranec is a rising star in the field of astronomical instrumentation. Even at this early stage of his career he has amassed a record of outstanding contributions to the field of adaptive optics, which removes the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere for ground-based astronomical telescopes.”
Baranec’s most significant work has been the development of a replicable, cost effective, and fully automated adaptive optics system called Robo-AO, which enables modest-size (1- to 3-meter) telescopes to image objects 10 times more sharply than without the system. Installed on the Palomar 1.5-meter telescope in California, it enabled Baranec and his colleagues to confirm numerous exoplanet candidates found by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. He plans to implement such a system on the UH 2.2-meter telescope on Mauna Kea.
After majoring in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, Baranec studied optical sciences at the University of Arizona and received a PhD in 2007. He spent six years as a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech before joining the University of Hawaiʻi faculty in July 2013. Baranec works at the Institute for Astronomy Hilo office in the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo University Research Park.
For more, read the Institute for Astronomy’s news release.