Her work helped set standards used by NASA and the FAA

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Margaret (Peggy) Ann Shea ’58, ’61G, ’18H was honored with the Charles Holmes Pettee Medal at this year's annual Evening of Distinction event at UNH.

Shea’s decades-long scientific career researching the interplay between cosmic rays, solar particles and Earth’s magnetic field has helped set standards used by NASA and the FAA in aviation and space exploration. And her investigations into contemporary and historic solar phenomena and cosmic ray events have yielded valuable insights that are still being explored today. 

Her career has taken her to more than 60 countries around the globe, and her scientific pursuits are as wide-ranging as her travels. A job at the University of Hawaii in Oahu in 1962 ignited an interest in volcanology, and she’s witnessed and photographed a number of volcanic eruptions. While at a conference in Australia in 1979, a snorkeling outing at the Great Barrier Reef inspired Shea to become a certified SCUBA diver.

Shea has authored or co-authored more than 400 scientific papers and has been a longtime editor for the journal Advances in Space Research. She has received several awards from the U.S. Air Force for her work and has been honored by the Royal Astronomical Society, the International Academy of Astronautics and many others. When the American Geophysical Union presented Shea with the group’s prestigious Waldo E. Smith medal in 1998, they called her a “spark plug on both the national and international scenes” and “a human dynamo.” 

The Pettee Medal, established in 1940, recognizes "individuals who exhibit the rare devotion to service" that Pettee was known for and is awarded to "a resident or former resident of the state in recognition of outstanding accomplishment or distinguished service in any form to the state, the nation, or the world."