Nadine G. Barlow, 1958–2020

Nadine G. Barlow

Nadine G. Barlow. Credit: University of Arizona.

Nadine Gail Barlow passed away on August 17, 2020, after a two-year battle with cancer.

A native of San Marcos, California, she was an alumna of the University of Arizona, where she received her Bachelor of Science and Doctoral degrees. After postdoctoral appointments at the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and a professorship at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida (where she was recognized with the 2002 University Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award), Barlow came to Flagstaff in 2002 to the (then) Department of Physics and Astronomy at Northern Arizona University (NAU).

In her 18 years at NAU, she ascended the academic ranks, eventually becoming Department Chair of Astronomy and Planetary Science. Barlow was the recipient of numerous awards for teaching excellence. Largely responsible for doubling the size of the department, she grew its curriculum into a Ph.D.-granting program. Barlow supervised many students over the years, both undergraduate and graduate, and was a popular mentor and friend to those under her tutelage.

She served on the boards and committees of many professional societies throughout her career, and published numerous papers in the scientific literature. Academic outreach was a priority, bringing the Arizona Space Grant Program to NAU, and fostering cooperation between NAU, Lowell Observatory, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Right up until two weeks before her passing, she organized scientific meetings and consortia, bringing together scientists from around the world to discuss and collaborate on their findings.

Academically, Barlow specialized in impact cratering processes, particularly on the planet Mars. For her Ph.D. dissertation — almost on a dare — she mapped, measured, and classified every crater on the entire planet larger than 8 kilometers (5 miles) in diameter. These data were used to establish the detailed relative chronology (relative age) of martian geologic features. Throughout her career, she maintained and expanded this database, as later spacecraft missions returned increasingly detailed images of the planet. Her academic interests spanned impact cratering on planets and satellites throughout the solar system, from Mercury to Pluto. Her curiosity about cratering processes increased along with the reach of our satellite explorations. Asteroid 15466 Barlow is named in her honor by the International Astronomical Union.

A prize for Undergraduate Research Excellence is being established at NAU’s Department of Astronomy and Planetary Sciences in her name.