Undergraduate Awards

Undergraduate Awards


Bonner Book Awards (Undergraduate and Graduate Awards)

Tom Bonner was the second chair of the Rice physics department, serving from 1947 until his sudden death in 1961. The Bonner Nuclear Laboratories are named after him. He was a nuclear physicist of international renown. The American Physical Society awards the prestigious Bonner Prize in nuclear physics each year in his honor. Here at Rice we honor his memory through the Bonner Book Prizes, given each year to the most outstanding sophomore, junior, senior, and first year graduate students in physics. This award is made possible by the generous gift of Tom Bonner's daughter, Dr. Susan Bonner Weir. The award monies are used for the purchase of books by the recipient(s).

2022-2023 recipients: Wisha Wanichwecharungruang and Emma Codianne (sophomores), Ares Lu and Kexin Shen (juniors),  Mingjian Zhu (senior), Jonathan Stepp (first-year graduate student)

Past Bonner Book Award Recipients

Dessler Award (Undergraduate Award)

Alex Dessler came to Rice in 1963 and as the founding chair of what was then the nation's first Space Science Department. He served three terms as Chair of the Space Science Department or, as it was later called, the Space Physics and Astronomy Department. He had broad research interests, was a major contributor to the success of Space Physics and Astronomy at Rice and his impact continues to be felt. After his retirement from Rice in 1993, Dessler was a Senior Research Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona until 2007, and is now an Adjunct Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas A&M. The Dessler award was established upon his retirement to recognize his many contributions to Rice University.  This award is presented to the best graduating senior in Astrophysics.

2022-2023 recipient: Brandon Khek

Past Dessler Award Recipients

Heaps Prize (Undergraduate Award)

Professor Claude W. Heaps served on the faculty at Rice from about 1915 until his retirement in 1957. He taught introductory physics in the Physics and Astronomy Department for more than 20 years and was well known among both the humanities and science students for his lively lectures. This prize was established by his friends and family in 1960 as a memorial to his outstanding qualities as a teacher of undergraduate physics. The Heaps Prize is awarded to an undergraduate physics student(s) on the basis of excellence in a recent research project, often one leading to the senior thesis.

2022-2023 recipients: Brandon Khek

Past Heaps Award Recipients

Distinction in Research in Physics and Astronomy (Undergraduate Award)

The Distinction in Research in Physics and Astronomy is given in the year of graduation for a research accomplishment of exceptional quality, as judged by a committee of faculty based on one or more scientific documents describing a contribution to physics, astronomy, or related field.

2022-2023 recipients: Mingjian Zhu, Brandon Khek, Prathik Boyella and Elliot Fang


  • The student should submit the related documents (such as a senior thesis, research paper or other appropriate documents) to the department for consideration.
  • The student must arrange for one or more supporting letter(s) to be submitted by the research mentor(s). If the documents submitted by the student have multiple authors the mentor’s letter must detail the student’s specific contributions.
  • The university requires that the student has a GPA of at least 3.30 for courses completed at Rice.
  • Projects completed in part or entirely at other institutions or with community partners will be eligible for consideration.

All nomination materials should be submitted electronically to the Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy by 5pm on the first Wednesday after the last day of classes in the spring semester. 

Past Distinction in Research in Physics and Astronomy Recipients

G.C. Phillips Undergraduate Research Scholarship (Undergraduate Award)

Gerald Cleveland Phillps entered the Rice Institute in Houston in 1940 as an undergraduate engineering student.  As a sophomore, however, he heard a lecture by the chairman and founder of Rice's physics department, Harold A. Wilson, which so impressed him that he switched his major to physics, a discipline he was to pursue for the rest of his life.  In 1949 he became an instructor in Physics at Rice and he remained in the department for the next forty-two years.   He served as chairman of the department from 1961 to 1966 upon the sudden death of Tom Bonner.  After serving as chairman of the department, he became the first director of the T.W. Bonner Nuclear Laboratory. He remained director until 1991.  

The Scholarship was established in 2012 to support undergraduate students working on research projects with faculty in the T.W. Bonner Nuclear Laboratory.

2022-2023 recipient: Parker Willis and Huijun Mao

Past G.C. Phillips Research Scholarship Recipients