In 2017, the Heising-Simons Foundation launched the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship. Named for the first exoplanet discovered orbiting a Sun-like star, the program supports a cadre of exceptional, early-career scientists as they conduct important theoretical, experimental and observational research in planetary astronomy. Since the inception of the program, the Foundation has engaged Williams Group (Wg) to help elevate the remarkable work of these fellows through a variety of communications supports.
In the program’s inaugural year, Wg collaborated with Foundation leaders to create descriptive language about the fellowship for use in online and print material. We also joined with the Foundation web vendor to develop a series of dedicated 51 Pegasi b Fellowship pages on the Foundation website. As each fellow accepts their invitation to participate in the program, Wg interviews them to generate profiles describing their work and aspirations for the fellowship. Working with photographer Mieke Strand, we also arrange custom portrait sessions with each fellow in university settings. These visual assets appear online on the website and in a brochure also designed by Williams Group. Throughout this process, Wg sustains regular contact with communication officials at each fellow’s host institution to encourage and support timely promotion of the fellowship announcement. To mark the significance of the occasion, Williams Group also designs and produces a physical award given by the Foundation to each of the fellows. Wg also designs a program brochure highlighting the fellows’ work and describing core attributes of the fellowship. This communication is updated each year and used by the Foundation to promote this inclusive fellowship opportunity to Ph.D. candidates across and beyond the United States.
Through a dynamic start-up phase, Wg outputs have helped establish the fellowship’s reputation as a respected and desirable award. The brochure, website and university outreach have helped bring attention to the arena of planetary science and fueled a steady stream of diverse, qualified applicants and university sponsors to the 51 Pegasi b Fellowship each year.