The Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence is conferred upon a graduating senior from one of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities. Kutztown University’s Daniel Johns ’20 was presented as the 2020 winner of the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence Wednesday afternoon at a ceremony on the KU campus.
Johns, of Orwigsburg, Pa., graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science in physics and astronomy. A prolific researcher, Johns’ work has contributed significant results from his research in the fields of exoplanets and interacting binary stars. Johns has published six research papers in professional, peer-reviewed journals, was a primary author on a piece published in The Astronomical Journal and multiple in various issues of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Johns has also delivered four conference presentations on his research, including his discovery and characterization of KELT-23Ab, a new, Jupiter-like exoplanet.
For his efforts, Johns was awarded Kutztown University’s Chambliss Academic Achievement Award Gold Medal this past spring in the category of successfully completed research projects.
Johns is a member of the Sigma Phi Sigma National Physics Honor Society, consistent Dean’s List student and recipient of multiple awards and research grants. Johns will be attending Georgia State University to pursue a doctorate in astronomy and astrophysics with aspirations to become a professional researcher in the fields of stellar astrophysics or exoplanetary science.
Created in 2000, the award was founded by Dr. Syed R. Ali-Zaidi, a charter member of the Board of Governors. Funding for this academic excellence award was made possible through gifts from Dr. Ali-Zaidi, Highmark Inc., and the State System Foundation, Inc. Dr. Ali-Zaidi wishes to inspire and honor State System students who exhibit excellence in their pursuit of knowledge.
Johns is the second award winner from KU, including 2011 winner Alison Koser.
Candidates for the award were recommended by their university president at the conclusion of a campus application and selection process that was open to all graduating seniors. Multiple selection criteria included outstanding academic scholarship, including prizes, honors and honorary societies; participation in extra/co-curricular activities; and a two-page essay by the nominee addressing how the university has prepared him or her for the next career step.