Each year, the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s (UAH) Earth System Science Center (ESSC), a part of the University of Alabama system, hosts the Annual ESSC Meritorious Service Awards ceremony to honor exceptional service to the university and the community. 

As ESSC is the research arm of the Atmospheric and Earth Science Department, one of the nation’s top 10 research programs for atmospheric science, the ESSC Meritorious Service Awards recognizes exemplary ESSC employees who have made outstanding contributions supporting ESSC’s goals and initiatives. 

Each honoree is nominated based on detailed recommendations by their supervisors and/or team leads. Dr. John Christy, the Director of ESSC, reviews each recommendation carefully, makes the final selections, and writes the award letters. The awards, including financial recognition, are presented at the annual Christmas holiday luncheon held on-campus each year.

Dr. Christy takes great pride in his selections and is privileged to present them each year to the well-deserving recipients. Congratulations to the following 2022 ESSC Meritorious Service Awards honorees, and for their dedication and service to ESSC:

Christine Evans

Research Associate 

christine evans

As a full-time Research Associate with NASA’s SERVIR program, Christine Evans is helping to lead SERVIR’s growing global Carbon Accounting Program (S-CAP) along with ESSC’s Dr. Emil Cherrington. Since carbon is everywhere and in just about everything, including living things, it is a highly distributed and mobile substance. Most of our energy comes from oxidizing carbon, so it changes form as well.


Evan’s work on this project and its international capacity building efforts …Carbon is Everywhere…is being recognized at NASA Headquarters and in the Applied Sciences Program. With such an important and current topic, Evans is constantly traveling to present her research at professional conferences and in international development contexts. You can imagine that to think about policy on what a country should do with its carbon, you first need to know where it is, how much of it there is and how it flows through and impacts the Earth System in its many forms. That’s a huge and complex task. 


Iksha Gurung

Computer Scientist

iksha gurung

Since 2018, Iksha Gurung has worked with Dr. Sundar Christopher’s ESSC NASA Interagency Implementation and Advanced Concepts Team (IMPACT). Gurung has led various projects in the Development and Machine Learning team using clever coding methods. Gurung is specifically in charge of understanding needs and requirements from an array of stakeholders and proposing solutions for them. Stakeholders also have business requirements, and Gurung translates those into technical details which the development team then can implement. Gurung designs and develops cloud-native applications with the phenomena portal, to automatically detect atmospheric phenomena from visible satellite imagery which meet the parameters of the intended detection algorithm. 


Gurung also applies machine learning algorithms to rapidly interrogate the massively large earth science datasets to discover and extract the data for those incidences when a particular phenomenon occurs. This is one of the greatest challenges in science – to discover something new and interesting from an ocean-sized bucket of data. Gurung’s work gives us the right-sized hook and the correct bait we need to snare that fish in that vast ocean we want to catch.


Josh Sisco

ESSC Facility Manager

josh sisco

ESSC has never had a Facility Manager like Josh Sisco. Starting over a year ago at ESSC, Sisco has quickly cut the red tape to fix problems quickly so that ESSC can carry on with our “carrying-on” activities. Our NASA partners sing Sisco’s praises weekly as they can call on Sisco to solve problems in a blink of an eye. If something needs to be fixed – call Sisco.


One sultry summer morning, the air conditioning unit in 4078 had gone out the night before ESSC employees were to give an 8 A.M. briefing to a U.S. Army General and UAH’s Vice Presidents. Sisco diagnosed the problem as a malfunctioning vent-opener-valve that ran off an air pressure line that had failed. So, every 15 minutes while ESSC was conducting its presentation, Sisco climbed up onto a ladder to get past the ceiling tile.  Then, with a bladder hand-pump, Sisco manually forced enough air into the chamber so the vent would open and keep the room cool. Who of us would have known to do that after only 20 minutes of investigation? Sisco just knows how stuff in the real-world works. Sisco saved the day and in general, has made life at ESSC so much better.


Matt Wingo

Research Scientist

Matt Wingo has done excellent work bringing NASA’s Lightning Mapper Array (LMA) back to full operations and even recent expansion. This important accomplishment has enabled NASA to provide full-rate LMA data, which are crucial to validating spaceborne observations from the Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) publicly via an automated workflow. Wingo has improved the networks to such a degree that NASA can now consider remote LMA deployments to support temporary field campaigns without degrading NASA’s core North Alabama and Mid-Atlantic LMAs, enabling new lightning science opportunities. 


Additionally, for over a decade, Wingo played a vital role in the ground validation component of NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. Wingo’s tireless efforts to ensure GPM’s precipitation reference instruments are properly calibrated and functional have enabled the science team to investigate several novel ideas and generate publications of their discoveries.