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New Jersey Astrophysicist David Spergel Wins 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize

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Princeton Professor Shares One of the Top Awards in the Field for Making Major Breakthroughs in Our Understanding of the Universe 

David Spergel wins 2015 Dannie HeinemanWASHINGTON, D.C., January 16, 2015--The American Astronomical Society (AAS) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) announced today that Princeton University's David Spergel is a winner of the 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics, one of the top prizes in the field which is awarded annually to outstanding mid-career scientists.

The award carries a cash prize of $10,000 to be split between Spergel and his co-winner, Marc Kamionkowski of Johns Hopkins University. For information on his co-winner see: http://www.aip.org/news/2015/baltimore-astrophysicist-marc-kamionkowski-wins-2015-dannie-heineman-prize.

The two researchers are receiving the award “for their outstanding contributions to the investigation of the fluctuations of the cosmic microwave background that have led to major breakthroughs in our understanding of the universe,” according to the selection committee.

“David Spergel's work has uncovered fundamental new ways of understanding the nature of the universe,” said Fred Dylla, AIP executive director and CEO. “The field of cosmology would not be the same without his outstanding contributions.”

The two winners, Spergel and Kamionkowski, will both receive their recognitions at an upcoming AAS meeting, Dylla added.

"Marc and David have taught us how to read the subtle bumps and swirls in our exquisite image of the early universe to reveal what happened in the moments of creation," said David J. Helfand, who is President of Quest University Canada and Past President of AAS.

Spergel received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1985 and joined the Princeton faculty in 1987 after spending two years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship in 2001, and has served as a mentor to over 60 graduate students and postdocs.

In the 1990s, Spergel collaborated with Kamionkowski on a series of papers that proposed a way to determine the spatial geometry of the universe using temperature maps of the cosmic microwave background—the residual thermal energy left over from the Big Bang.

He also served as the lead theorist on the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) project, a NASA explorer mission launched in 2001. “WMAP made very accurate measurements of the microwave background fluctuations, and we used them to determine the age, composition and shape of the,” said Spergel. Reacting to his selection as winner of the prize, he added: “The list of people who have won in the past is very distinguished, and it’s an honor to be included.”

Currently, he is involved in NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a Hubble successor that will image nearby planets and study dark energy, as well as the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, a high resolution microwave background telescope based in Chile. He is also the chair of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board, which advises the federal government on space policy.

David Spergel wins 2015 Dannie Heineman Prize

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ABOUT THE HEINEMAN PRIZE

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 DAVID SPERGEL

Spergel received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1985 and joined the Princeton faculty in 1987 after spending two years at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the MacArthur Fellowship in 2001, and has served as a mentor to over 60 graduate students and post-docs. Spergel has extensively studied the cosmic microwave background of the universe—the residual thermal energy leftover from the Big Bang. He served as the lead theorist on the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) project, a NASA explorer mission launched in 2001 that precisely measured fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background and used them to determine the age, composition, and shape of the universe. Currently, he is involved in NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a Hubble successor that will image nearby planets and study dark energy, as well as the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, a high-resolution microwave background telescope based in Chile. He is also the chair of the National Academies’ Space Studies Board, which advises the federal government on space policy.

ABOUT MARC KAMIONKOWSKI

Marc Kamionkowski received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1991 and did his postdoctoral work at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. He then worked as an assistant professor at Columbia University before moving to Caltech in 1999. In 2011, he joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the E.O. Lawrence Award for Physics in 2006, and was named a Simons Foundation Investigator in 2014. Kamionkowski began his work on cosmic background radiation—leftover thermal energy from the Big Bang—in the 1990s, when NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer was beginning to announce results. He co-wrote several papers proposing a way to determine the spatial geometry of the universe using temperature maps of the cosmic microwave background.

Later, Kamionkowski studied the polarization of the cosmic microwave background, again spurring experimentalists to measure this phenomenon. His work has advanced the field of precision cosmology, which in recent years has provided data on the age, shape, and composition of the universe.

ABOUT AIP

The American Institute of Physics is a federation of scientific societies in the physical sciences, representing scientists, engineers, and educators. AIP offers authoritative information, services, and expertise in physics education and student programs, science communication, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research in physics employment and education, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and allied fields. AIP publishes Physics Today, the most influential and closely followed magazine of the physics community, and is also home to the Society of Physics Students and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. AIP owns AIP Publishing LLC, a scholarly publisher in the physical and related sciences. www.aip.org

ABOUT AAS

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 8,000 individuals also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research and educational interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS (http://aas.org) is to enhance and share humanity's scientific understanding of the universe. Among its many activities, the AAS publishes two of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field: the Astrophysical Journal (http://apj.aas.org) and the Astronomical Journal (http://aj.aas.org).

For more information, please contact: 
Jason Socrates Bardi
American Institute of Physics
jbardi@aip.org
+1 301-209-3091 (office)
+1 240-535-4954 (cell)