Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Doctoral Dissertation Award in Astrophysics

This award recognizes doctoral thesis in research in astrophysics, and encourages effective written and oral presentation of research results. The annual award consists of $1,500 for the recipient, a certificate, registration waiver, and all finalists will receive a travel reimbursement up to $750 in order to present their work in an invited session at the APS April Meeting.

Establishment & Support

The award was established in 2013 by the Division of Astrophysics (DAP) as the Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award in Astrophysics. In 2018 it was renamed for Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, and generously endowed by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Rules & Eligibility

Doctoral students at any university in the United States or abroad who have passed their thesis defense for the Ph.D. any time during the two calendar years prior to the year of the APS April Meeting where the award is made (for example, for the 2019 award, anyone who defended in 2017 or 2018 is eligible), and whose thesis topic is appropriate for DAP (i.e. dealing with topics that are typically presented in DAP sponsored or co-sponsored sessions at the APS April Meeting), and who are members of the DAP are eligible for the award. A student may be a finalist in the competition only once. Nominations and selection of finalists will be made during the nomination submission year, after the deadline; the selection and announcement of the winner will be made at the following APS April Meeting.

Nomination & Selection Process

Deadline: Friday, November 30, 2018

The deadline for nominations is November 30 of the year preceding the April Meeting where the award will be made. The nomination process is initiated by the thesis advisor and the nominator must be a DAP member.

The nomination packet consists of the following materials:

  1. APS Prizes and Awards nomination form (nominee’s contact information, thesis date)
  2. A CV, including a list of publications.
  3. A letter from the thesis advisor citing the specific contributions of the nominee and the significance of those contributions.
  4. At most two letters seconding the nomination.
  5. A letter from the department chair certifying the date of the thesis defense. If this letter goes beyond verifying the defense date it must be counted as one of the two seconding letters.
  6. A manuscript prepared by the nominee describing the thesis research; the manuscript may not exceed 1,500 words (excluding references) and a maximum of 6 figures.
  7. An abstract prepared by the nominee suitable for publication in the APS April Meeting Bulletin.
  8. Demographics form (if known/wish to specify age, gender, race, and ethnicity of the nominee)

The name of the thesis supervisor and the institution should be indicated in a footnote. The finalists will be chosen by the Thesis Award Selection Committee based on the quality of the thesis research and the written presentation. Selection Committee members who have mentored or otherwise co-authored with any candidate will recuse themselves from selection of finalists or awardees as appropriate. The three finalists will present their work at a special Thesis Award Session of the April Meeting. After consideration of the oral presentation, the Selection Committee will choose the recipient of the award. The winner will be announced at the DAP business meeting. Nominees who are not selected as finalists may submit abstracts for regular oral or poster presentation at the meeting.

To start a new or update a continuing nomination, please see the Prize & Award Nomination Guidelines.

2018 Selection Committee Members: Dan Kasen (chair), Tracy Slatyer (vice chair), Greg Madejski, Judy Racusin


Serving a diverse and inclusive community of physicists worldwide is a primary goal for APS. Nominations of women, members of underrepresented minority groups, and scientists from outside the United States are especially encouraged.

2018 Recipient

Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez
University of Maryland, College Park

Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez



Past Recipients

2017: Garrett Somers
2016: Wen-fai Fong
2015: Anne Archibald