NASA Goddard scientist wins 2017 GLBT Scientist Award


Credit: Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Matthew McGill of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) Scientist of the Year Award.

This award is made to a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) scientist who has made the most outstanding contributions in their field.

McGill was chosen to receive the award because of his outstanding achievements in the application of lidar technology in the study of Earth's atmosphere to better understand climate change impacts. Lidar is an acronym for light detection and ranging. It is a remote sensing method that uses light from a pulsed laser to measure properties of the atmosphere.

Upon receiving notification of the award, McGill said, "This is truly a unique and prestigious honor. To be recognized from amongst all science disciplines is humbling and also acknowledges the importance of the work the Earth science community is pursuing. Moreover, to be recognized as a visible member of, and advocate for, the GLBT community provides important recognition of the value of GLBT professionals. Such visibility is particularly important within government agencies, such as NASA."

McGill is both a research physicist and the Earth Science Division chief technologist at NASA Goddard.

As a research physicist his focus is on studying the atmosphere. He develops new concepts, prototypes new instruments, participates in field campaigns, analyzes data from instruments and satellites, writes proposals, and mentors younger researchers. As the Goddard Earth Science Division chief technologist, he advises management on where the agency should make strategic investments and connects scientists and engineers to make them happen.

Since 2000, McGill has served as the principal investigator for the Cloud Physics Lidar, an instrument that operates on NASA's high-altitude aircraft and has flown aboard an unmanned Global Hawk aircraft during the Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3) mission. He has developed multiple laser remote sensing instruments, primarily for use on high-altitude research aircraft. In 2011, he led development of the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) instrument to conclusively demonstrate a new approach to measurement of surface elevation as a demonstrator for the ICESat-2 mission.

Most recently, McGill led an award-winning team that designed and built the Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS) instrument, a low-cost lidar system built as a technology demonstrator on the International Space Station (ISS). CATS uses a laser to study clouds and pollutants in the atmosphere. Launched in January 2015, CATS has been successfully operating on the ISS for two years.

McGill has participated in at least 20 field campaigns over the past two decades. His instruments have operated from Costa Rica, South Africa, Iceland, and throughout the continental U.S.

The NOGLSTP annually recognizes a scientist of the year, engineer of the year and educator of the year from across the broad spectrum science, engineering and academic disciplines. The NOGLSTP awards were established as a means of identifying, honoring and documenting the contributions of outstanding GLBT science, engineering and technology professionals, as well as corporations, academic institutions, and businesses that support GLBT professionals in the fields of science and technology.

The award will be presented at the banquet during the Out to Innovate conference on Saturday, March 4, at the Doubletree Hotel Boston North Shore in Danvers, Massachusetts.


For a Q&A Feature with Dr. McGill, visit:

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