Andrea Ghez, an astrophysicist at UCLA who received the APS Maria Goeppert Mayer (MGM) Award
in 1999, is among the recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship for 2008. This year’s MacArthur fellows were announced in September.
The MacArthur fellowships, commonly called “genius grants,” give recipients $500,000 with no restrictions on how the money is spent. Recipients come from a range of disciplines, including art, science, social science, education, business, medicine, and many others. This year there are several physicists among the recipients. MacArthur fellows are chosen for their creativity, originality, and promise for important future advances based on a record of accomplishment.
The MGM award is intended to recognize and enhance outstanding achievement by a woman physicist in the early years of her career, not later than ten years after the granting of the PhD degree. It recognizes scientific achievements that demonstrate potential as an outstanding physicist.
Ghez uses ground‑based telescopic techniques to identify thousands of new star systems and illuminate the role of super‑massive black holes in the evolution of galaxies. She is the third MGM award recipient to go on to win a MacArthur grant. The others are Deborah Jin and Margaret Murnane. Jin, of JILA (an institute of the University of Colorado), researches novel quantum systems including degenerate Fermi gases, and Murnane, also now of JILA, works in experimental ultrafast optical physics. Jin won the MGM award in 2002; Murnane won the MGM award in 1997.
Other MGM award recipients have gone on to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences and win many other honors.
The MGM award is given to early career physicists who demonstrate potential, noted Sue Otwell, APS women’s programs administrator. The fact that so many of these women have become extremely successful physicists is a sign of promise fulfilled, she said.