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Kathleen Vander Kaaden ’10 Named Salem State University Alumni Association’s 2020 Rising Star Award Recipient

As Kathleen Vander Kaaden ’10 was preparing to leave high school in the small town of Assonet, Mass., she knew, like so many other Salem State students, that she’d be on her own to make college happen.

After graduation in 2010 with a degree in geological sciences she was selected to be a research and teaching assistant at the University of New Mexico, receiving both her master and doctorate degrees. Kathleen was selected to work at the Johnson Space Center Inc. at NASA in the office of astromaterials, focusing on the planetary makeup of Mercury and the moon.

“Having an understanding of the compositions of the planets and especially their surfaces can help us learn more about the history and evolution of the planet throughout time,” she wrote in her doctoral thesis. 

For Kathleen's achievements to reach for the moon, stars and beyond, she has been named the 2020 recipient of the Salem State University Alumni Association Rising Star award for her outstanding professional achievements in the field of planetary research. 
Kathleen has "never forgotten that it all started for her at Salem State, extols Mike Mitchell '07, Assistant Director, Alumni Relations at Salem State. 

Established in 2013 by the Salem State University Alumni Association, the Rising Star Award recognizes alumni, who have received their degree within the last 15 years, who are already making significant contributions to greater society through professional and philanthropic work. 

To learn more about the Alumni Association or to nominate a graduate for an award, please visit

Alumni Relations
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