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Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies

Nininger meteorite award

Please note that the application opportunity for this year's award has closed.

The Nininger Meteorite Award recognizes outstanding student achievement in the meteoritical sciences as embodied by an original research paper.  Papers must cover original research conducted by the student and must have been written, submitted, or published between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022.

Applicants must be the first, but not sole, author of the paper and must have been enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at an educational institution in the United States at the time the paper was written, submitted, or published.

The Nininger Award recipient receives $2,000 and an engraved plaque commemorating the honor.

Recipients will present their paper in an online seminar hosted by the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies.

Applications will be considered by an independant review panel of field experts.

History of the Award
In 1965, Dr. H.H. Nininger and Mrs. Addie D. Nininger endowed the Nininger Science of Meteoritics Fund to the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University in order to promote interest in meteorite-related topics among young scientists. The Fund supports the Nininger Meteorite Award, which recognizes outstanding student achievement in the “Science of Meteoritics” as embodied by an original research paper. Past recipients include Harry Y. McSween (University of Tennessee), Edward Stolper (California Institute of Technology) and the recipients of the 2010 Barringer Award (William K. Hartmann, Planetary Science Institute), 2002 Nier Prize (Dante Lauretta, University of Arizona), and 2005 Leonard Medal (Joseph Goldstein, University of Massachusetts, Amherst).
Download a list of the past recipients.

Permitted Topics
Nininger Award past recipients
Previous Nininger Meteorite Award recipients. Clockwise from top right: Jonathan Lewis (2018), Emily Worsham (2017), Francois Tissot (2016), Roger Fu (2015).

The original text of the Nininger endowment states that the "Science of Meteoritics embraces all aspects of the study of inert natural matter existing in space, passing through the atmosphere, or having come to Earth from space, together with any or all of the phenomena occasioned by its fall and its effect upon the Earth or upon any other member of the Solar System. Such science shall also be considered to include theoretical consideration as to the origin of such matter and special relationships". Research topics covered under this description include, but are not limited to, physical and chemical properties of meteorites, origin of meteoritic material and cratering. Observational, experimental, statistical or theoretical investigations are allowed.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Applicants must have been enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate degree program at an educational institution in the United States at the time the paper was written, submitted, or published. Overseas students visiting US institutions who are not enrolled at that institution are not eligible.
  • The student must be first author of the paper, but does not have to be the sole author.
  • Paper must cover original research conducted by the student, and have been written, submitted or published between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022.
As a part of your application, we require a letter of support from your advisor. Please have your advisor email the letter to nininger[at] When both your application and letter of support are on file, we will inform you that your application is complete. All application documents must be submitted by midnight (PST) April 7, 2023.


2021-22 Nininger Meteorite Award Winners

We are pleased to announce that Zoë Wilbur, a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Arizona is the recipient of the 2021-22 Nininger Meteorite Award, and Cauê Borlina, a Blaustein Postdoctoral Fellow at Johns Hopkins University received an Honorable Mention for the award.

Nininger Meteorite Awardee Zoë Wilbur.

Zoë’s paper “The effects of highly reduced magmatism revealed through aubrites” investigates the petrogenesis of aubrite meteorites and assesses their relevance as analogues to the planet Mercury.

In the absence of known samples from Mercury, we must study the most reduced samples in our meteorite collection to better understand reduced magmatic bodies in our Solar System. The aubrite meteorites are thought to have formed in the innermost region of the protoplanetary disk and formed from parent bodies of uniquely low oxygen fugacities.

The aubrites are sometimes called enstatite achondrites due to their nearly monomineralic nature. Despite their highly FeO-free, enstatitic composition, aubrites contain a variety of exotic sulfides, and many of these sulfides contain moderately volatile cations that typically exhibit lithophile behavior in oxidized systems (i.e., Ca, Na, and K) acting as chalcophile elements, which is a product of their reducing conditions of formation. Elemental partitioning among metals, sulfides, and silicates is poorly constrained at such low oxygen fugacities, and studying aubrites provides evidence of the effects of reducing conditions on elemental behavior.
This comprehensive study combines petrography, geochemistry, oxygen isotopic measurements, and X-ray computed tomography to unravel the petrologic histories of fourteen aubrite meteorites. Calculations of elemental partitioning in the natural aubrite samples shows that the geochemical behavior of elements is similar to elemental behavior determined experimentally for magmatic systems on Mercury. The partition coefficients show that Mn-, Ca-, Cr-, and Ti-bearing sulfides are likely to be phases present in reduced planetary systems.
Ultimately, the aubrites represent valuable petrologic analogues to the planet Mercury and other highly reduced systems in our Solar System. Read the full paper, here!


Cauê's paper, "Paleomagnetic measurements of chondrules suggest that a gap existed in the early solar system" investigates isotopic dichotomy observed in chondrite meteorites.

Cauê Borlina, Nininger Meteorite Award Honorable Mention.

Chondrules are droplets of quickly cooled molten dust that are commonly found in several meteorites and formed within the first four million years of the Solar System. During chondrule formation, magnetic minerals, such as kamacite, can record the background magnetic field from the protoplanetary disk and retain this magnetic record for periods greater than that of the Solar System age. Because the protoplanetary disk has large scale magnetic fields generated by the ionized gas, by obtaining records of these fields from different times and locations, it is possible to learn about the architecture of the early Solar System.
This study utilizes paleomagnetic measurements from ~100 µm-sized chondrules from CO chondrites to investigate what caused meteorites to have a fundamental dichotomy observed in several isotopic systems. The work presents novel micro-paleomagnetic records from chondrules that formed in the carbonaceous reservoir. After comparing study measurements with previous paleomagnetic measurement from chondrules from the non-carbonaceous reservoir, the authors conclude that a mechanism to remove mass from the disk may have been active in the early Solar System that may have been related to a gap. This mechanism could have been associated with the presence of Jupiter or with winds driven by disk magnetism. The presence of the gap may explain the formation of the observed isotopic dichotomy among meteorites. Read the full paper, here!