After more than 25 years of working with NASA, University of Alaska Fairbanks researcher Dr. Nettie La Belle-Hamer is being recognized for her longtime contributions to the agency.
La Belle-Hamer, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), is the recipient of the 2021 NASA Exceptional Public Achievement Medal for her work in advancing the accessibility of synthetic aperture radar data to users worldwide.
Synthetic Aperture Radar is a technique that produces fine-resolution images from a radar system, according to NASA. The imaging technique transmits and receives signals from the surface of earth using sensors, which can detect features like moisture and structure.
NASA uses synthetic aperture radar in a wide variety of applications, which range from studying glaciers to capturing volcanic activity.
The Exceptional Public Achievement Medal is among several NASA awards annually given to non-government researchers who have made outstanding contributions to the agency’s mission.
“I am deeply humbled by this prestigious award,” said La Belle-Hammer. “When I read the email notifying me, I was so stunned I didn’t move for about 30 minutes. This is such a huge honor and reflects not just on me but also on the whole ASF team.”
A lifelong Alaskan, La Belle-Hamer received her doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1994 and served as director of the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) for nearly 20 years. As director, she managed the NASA Distributed Active Archive Center for synthetic aperture radar data that supported polar environmental processes.
She also worked to move synthetic aperture radar data to cloud servers, accessed through the internet, which allowed researchers from around the world to analyze data faster.
Drew Kittel, science operations manager of NASA’s Goddard Earth Science Data and Information System Project, praised her dedication to advancing synthetic aperture radar data to users worldwide.
“Nettie’s two-plus decades of drive, dedication and lasting contributions to NASA’s mission and the broad community of synthetic aperture radar data users is the embodiment of public service and made her a natural and deserving nominee for NASA’s Exceptional Public Achievement Medal,” he said.
“It has been a privilege to serve with the men and women of ASF for all these years,” said La Belle-Hamer. “I still believe in the mission as much as I believe in the team.”