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Astrophysicist Rachel Somerville Wins 2013 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics

American Institute of Physics and American Astronomical Society jointly honor renowned researcher

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are pleased to announce that astrophysicist Rachel Somerville, Ph.D., has been selected as the 2013 recipient of the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, which is given annually to recognize outstanding work in the field.

Her citation reads: “For providing fundamental insights into galaxy formation and evolution using semi-analytic modeling, simulations and observations.” The award will be presented at a future meeting of the AAS.

“I am thrilled and deeply honored to be awarded the Heineman prize,” said Somerville. “I have come to realize that the knowledge we seek is so much more meaningful because we share the process and the insights with friends and colleagues, and this kind of endorsement from my peers is the most gratifying recognition that I can imagine.”

Somerville received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and did postdoctoral work at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and the Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. She earned her bachelor's degree in physics and music from Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Somerville has served on the faculty at the University of Michigan and headed the theory group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. She formerly served as a member of the science staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute and research professor at Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland. She currently holds the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Chair in Astrophysics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Somerville’s work focuses on trying to understand how galaxies form and evolve in a cosmological context, from shortly after the Big Bang until the present day. To do this, she combines data from computer models and simulations with astronomical observations. More recently, she has been trying to understand how the lives of galaxies and their supermassive black holes influence one another.

Somerville also has been a member of several large observational teams, including the Hubble Ultra Deep Field team and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS) team. She currently leads the theory working group for CANDELS, the largest project ever undertaken with the Hubble Space Telescope. She has published more than 200 scholarly papers.

"Dr. Somerville has made great contributions to the fields of physics and astrophysics," said Fred Dylla, AIP executive director and CEO. "At a time when modeling and observations work hand-in-hand to advance research, it’s very appropriate that the Heineman Award recognize achievement at the crossroads of theory and discovery."

"Dr. Somerville is truly deserving of this prestigious award," said Kevin Marvel, AAS executive officer. “Her theoretical and observational studies of galaxies have helped expand our understanding of the formation and evolution of these cosmic building blocks.”

The Heineman Prize is named after Dannie N. Heineman, an engineer, business executive, and philanthropic sponsor of the sciences. The prize was established in 1979 by the Heineman Foundation for Research, Education, Charitable and Scientific Purposes, Inc.

Awarded annually, the prize consists of $10,000 and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient plus travel expenses to attend the meeting at which the prize is bestowed.

About American Institute of Physics
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is an organization of 10 physical science societies, representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators. As one of the world's largest publishers of scientific information in physics, AIP employs innovative publishing technologies and offers publishing services for its Member Societies. AIP's suite of publications includes 15 journals, three of which are published in partnership with other organizations; magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Through its Physics Resources Center, AIP also delivers valuable services and expertise in education and student programs, science communications, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and other sciences.

Charles Blue | Newswise
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