UCF Physics Professor Humberto Campins has been named a Jefferson Science Fellow and will report to Washington D.C. beginning Nov. 21 to spend a year advising the U.S. Department of State.
Campins is an international expert on asteroids. He is part of NASA’s historic OSIRIS REx mission, which is headed back to Earth with a sample of a primitive asteroid. It was a first for America. Campins also was part of the first team to discover water ice and organic molecules on an asteroid in 2010. He’s also won various awards for his contributions to the field including a Fulbright Fellowship, a Don Quixote Award and UCF’s most prestigious recognition of Pegasus Professor.
“The Jefferson Fellowship is a huge honor for me,” Campins says. “I’m excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to our nation, and to bring that experience back to UCF.”
The Jefferson award was established in 2003 as an initiative of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State. The Jefferson Science Fellows Program is designed to further build capacity for science, technology, and engineering expertise within the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Up to 15 of the nation’s most distinguished faculty are named fellows each year and serve in an area within the State Department or the USAID providing their expertise. The National Academies administer the program.
Campins is the fourth UCF professor to be named a fellow. The other winners are Engineering Professor Suryanarayana Challapalli (2012), Optics and Photonics Professor Martin Richardson (2014), and Engineering Professor Pamela McCauley (2015). When Campins reports to Washington D.C. he will be working for the Office of American Space in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The bureau works to “build friendly, peaceful relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, and professional exchanges, as well as public -private partnerships,” according to the bureau’s website.
This timing is perfect for Campins. He’s been busy the last few months teaching and writing articles based on the data collected so far from the OSIRIS-REx mission. There’ll be more to study once the asteroid sample is back on Earth, but that’s not until Fall 2023. And he plans to continue his research after hours and on weekends.
“I can’t stay away from helping students or the research,” Campins says. “But that will be on my time.” He will continue to supervise several undergraduate and graduate UCF students this academic year.
Campins holds multiple degrees from the University of Kansas and the University of Arizona. When he first arrived at UCF in August 2002, he was named Provost Research Professor of Physics and Astronomy and was the only member of the Planetary and Space Science Group. Since then, UCF has grown its Planetary Sciences Group to 29 faculty and researchers. It is also home to a variety of centers and programs including NASA’s Center for Lunar & Asteroid Surface Science.
Aside from working in private industry and at other universities before joining UCF, Campins also had the privilege of serving as a consultant to the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space of the General Assembly of the United Nations.