SSI Affiliate Research Scientist Babar Ali was an astronomer, senior data scientist, and machine learning engineer. Babar combined a successful career in industry with his astronomical research, which focused on the formation and evolution of protostars.

Babar did his undergraduate degree in astronomy and physics at the University of Arizona and earned his Ph.D. in astronomy from The Ohio State University. In his dissertation, he developed a spectral classification scheme for stars in the near-infrared wavelength regime and used this method to decipher the nature of young stars in the nearby Orion star-forming region. He also held a graduate professional certificate in Data Mining & Applications from Stanford University, which he leveraged toward a career in machine learning at startups in the Los Angeles area.

As an astronomer, Babar worked on observing campaigns, algorithm development, and archival databases for ESA/NASA's Infrared Space Observatory, Herschel Space Observatory, and Infrared Processing & Analysis Center (IPAC) at the University of Rochester and Caltech as a staff scientist before joining SSI in 2014. He was also the recipient of three NASA Public Service Group Achievement Awards and a science mentor for the NASA IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program. Babar's work outside of astronomy straddled applications of data science to disparate fields such as finance, digital marketing, and the automotive industry. He served as a volunteer data scientist for DataKind, studying wheat field signatures in MODIS and CHIRPS satellite imagery data by clustering the temporal pattern of vegetation and rainfall.

Babar passed away unexpectedly in December 2020. This is a tremendous loss not only to our institute, but to the wider astronomical and data science communities, to which he contributed so much. He is survived by his wife, Kristin Herkstroeter, and two sons, Sekander and Daniyar. His friends have started a GoFundMe page to raise college funds for his sons.

Dr. Josh Bandfield's research focused on the processes that have formed the terrestrial planets, asteroids, and Earth analogs. He used infrared and visible spectral and imaging data returned from orbiting spacecraft and landers to determine the mineralogical, thermophysical, and morphological properties of planetary surfaces. Josh was involved with spacecraft planning, operations, and science activities for martian, lunar, and asteroid missions from 1995 to 2019. He was a geologist by training and liked rocks.

Josh passed away unexpectedly mid-June 2019 and we are beyond saddened for the loss to our space community. He worked as a Senior Research Scientist with Space Science Institute since 2013. Josh was an expert in using thermal infrared and visible spectral and imaging data to determine the mineralogical, thermophysical, and morphological properties of planetary surfaces. He authored/co-authored over 90 peer-reviewed and 240 non-refereed articles on planetary geology, spectroscopic remote sensing, radiative transfer, and thermal modeling. He developed observation and data analysis strategies for the collection and derivation of surface properties from thermal infrared observations. His spacecraft operational experience includes OSIRIS-REx, 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Global Surveyor, and Mars Exploration Rovers. He designed, implemented, and validated calibration and data processing strategies for the Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES), Thermal Emission Imaging System (TES), Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (mini-TES), MCS, Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment (DLRE), and Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) investigations. Josh served as a co-investigator on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment and the 2001 Mars Odyssey THEMIS instruments. He also served as a participating scientist on several missions, including NASA's OSIRIS-REx and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Josh was also active in public outreach, and helped many students and early career scientists.

Please consider honoring Josh with a donation to the Ridge to Rivers trail system in Boise, Idaho. Josh was an avid trail runner, mountain biker, and admirer of wildflowers. These trails brought him a great deal of enjoyment while he lived in Boise.

Josh Bandfield was honored at the SSI's 2019 Space Jam by friends and colleagues including Phil Christensen ( View PDF) and Christopher Edwards ( View PDF).

If you have questions regarding Josh's projects please contact Karly Pitman or Ralph Shuping .

Joshua Bandfield

S. Peter Gary, SSI Senior Research Scientist, Santa Fe, NM, was an international expert on the waves and instabilities of space plasmas. He received his B.S. in Physics from Case Institute of Technology in 1961, and his Ph.D. in Physics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1967. He served for six years on the faculty of the Physics Department at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. Peter joined the staff of Los Alamos Scientific (now National) Laboratory in 1977 and subsequently served there as a respected manager, mentor, and intellectual leader. In 2012, Peter retired from LANL and joined SSI as a Senior Research Scientist. His distinguished research career concentrated on the theory and simulation of waves, instabilities, and turbulence in the collisionless plasmas of the Earth's magnetosphere and the solar wind. He authored 586 works on ADS, including well over 100 first author publications, and a scientific monograph, "Theory of Space Plasma Microinstabilities" (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993). Peter is survived by his wife, Carol Ann Mullaney.

Peter Gary

Dr. Giovanni Lapenta was a Senior Research Scientist at SSI and a professor at KU Leuven in Belgium. Giovanni's research was in the intersection of space plasma physics, numerical methods and high-performance computing, AI, and nuclear engineering, and he contributed important publicly accessible codes to the physics community. Giovanni obtained his PhD from Politecnico di Torino (Italy) in 1993; after which he went on to join the plasma theory group at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 2017 Giovanni joined SSI where he worked on numerous NASA/NSF funded awards in the field of space plasma physics.

Giovanni was well regarded by his peers and students and continued to perform quality research while privately battling cancer. Giovanni's passing is a tragic loss to our SSI family as well as the broader community of space physics. He will be sorely missed.

Giovanni is survived by his mother -- online condolences can be provided at: Giovanni Lapenta

Giovanni Lapenta