Marianna Shepherd, an adjunct professor in the Centre for Research in Earth & Space Science (CRESS) at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering, received a Distinguished Service Award from the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) in recognition of nearly a decade of serving as a scientific secretary.
SCOSTEP is a thematic body of the International Science Council that aims to strengthen and share knowledge on solar-terrestrial physics across broad scientific communities. In collaboration with members from over 34 countries, SCOSTEP brings its vision to life through interdisciplinary and public outreach programs and projects related to sun-Earth connections.
As scientific secretary, Shepherd’s list of responsibilities included organizing international symposia, facilitating educational programs and supporting international collaborations. In doing so, she has helped contribute to the elevation of SCOSTEP’s global impact.
“It’s very heart-warming to be recognized for my efforts over the years; this is a full-circle moment,” says Shepherd. “This acknowledgement is more important than the medal I received, as I saw my role to be more than just a scientific secretary. When I was a graduate student, I didn’t have much support from my supervisors, so I wanted to use my position at SCOSTEP to positively impact the experiences of other graduate students and young scientists. I wanted to share my experience and knowledge, make people feel comfortable doing science and create equal footing. I believe this is a way to help people and, in particular, young scientists to be creative and stimulate them to do their best.”
Shepherd’s notable work at SCOSTEP includes giving presentations to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at Scientific and Technical Subcommittee meetings held in Vienna, as well as managing and organizing the SCOSTEP Visiting Scholars (SVS) program. The SVS program provides young scientists and graduate students with formal training opportunities at prominent solar-terrestrial physics laboratories and institutions such as the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Institute for Space-Earth Environmental Research, thereby helping participants gain the necessary skills and experience to advance their future scientific goals.
Shepherd also assisted in organizing the 13th Quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium, held in Xi’an, China in October 2014. This event and other experiences prepared her for one of her most challenging and rewarding projects at SCOSTEP – single-handedly organizing the 14th Quadrennial Solar-Terrestrial Physics Symposium at York University in July 2018.
“It took a lot of hard work and international organization to make the conference a success. I had to build it from the ground up,” says Shepherd. “I’m very appreciative of the amount of support I received from York throughout the process; the right people came into my life at the right moment.”
She expresses gratitude for the support she received from Lassonde’s CRESS; professors James Whiteway, Mike Daly, Spiros Pagiatakis and Regina Lee; as well as the former associate vice-president, research of York University, Professor Celia Haig-Brown.
“After receiving my award, many of the graduate students I worked with called to congratulate me and thank me for the help I had provided,” she says. “I’m grateful for the experience I had at SCOSTEP; this whole process has given me moral satisfaction.”