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10/09/1995 07:00:00

Chemistry Graduate Student Receives First Pickering Fellowship

PASADENA—Penelope Kneebone, who started graduate school in environmental chemistry this fall at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calfornia, has received the first Pickering Fellowship ever awarded. As a Pickering Fellow, Kneebone will have all her expenses paid during her first year of study.

The Pickering Fellowship was established recently at Caltech by William Pickering, an alumnus and professor of electrical engineering, emeritus, at Caltech, and a former director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As a native of New Zealand, Pickering specified that the fellowships be awarded preferentially to students from New Zealand.

"There have been a few New Zealanders over here from time to time, but I want to make it a little easier for more of them to come," said Pickering, who believes he was the first Kiwi to attend Caltech. "I believe it's important to support Caltech because of the high-quality education it provides. I believe in giving something back to the Institute and I'd like others to have a similar educational opportunity."

Kneebone is from Matamata, New Zealand, and received her bachelor of science degree with first-class honors in chemistry this spring from the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she ranked in the top 2 percent of chemistry honors students over the last decade. While she hasn't chosen an area of specialization for her graduate studies at Caltech, she is interested in both environmental and inorganic chemistry.

Pickering earned his bachelor's degree and his doctorate in physics at Caltech, in 1932 and 1936, respectively, then stayed as an instructor and to study cosmic rays with Nobel Laureate Robert Millikan. He joined Caltech's professorial faculty in 1940, and started working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1944 as a section chief to develop radio telemetry systems for missiles. He began working full time at JPL in 1950, and served as JPL's director from 1954 to 1976.

Following his retirement from JPL, he founded and served as the first director of an applied engineering research institute at the University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. After getting that institute up and running, he returned to Southern California in 1978, where he operated his own consulting firm for several years. In 1984 he started Lignetics, Inc., a company that turns sawdust into pellets that are burned in special stoves to heat homes.

Pickering is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, and has received awards from around the world. He was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire by order of Queen Elizabeth in 1975 and received the National Medal of Science from President Ford that same year. More recently, he was the first winner of the University of Michigan's Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Aerospace Prize in 1993, and was one of the two 1994 Japan Prize Laureates, selected by the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan.

Written by John Avery