31 May 2018

Kavli Prize in Astrophysics Goes to Ewine van Dishoeck

Richard Fienberg

Richard Fienberg American Astronomical Society

This post is adapted from an announcement and press release on the Kavli Prize website:

Ewine van DishoeckOn 31 May the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced its decision to award the 2018 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics to Ewine ("eh-VEEN-uh") van Dishoeck of Leiden University, the Netherlands, "For her combined contributions to observational, theoretical, and laboratory astrochemistry, elucidating the life cycle of interstellar clouds and the formation of stars and planets."

The announcement was made in Oslo, Norway, and streamed live to the World Science Festival in New York City. The Kavli Prize consists of a gold medal and a cash prize of $1 million.

Ewine van Dishoeck has done seminal work on revealing the chemical and physical processes in interstellar clouds, where stars and planets form. Her research has contributed to a breakthrough of astrochemistry, demonstrating how molecules form and evolve during the transformation of a cloud into stellar systems like our own.

Through observational studies using telescopes on Earth and in space, van Dishoeck unveiled the "water trail," measuring water vapor from dense clouds to young stars. This helps us understand the formation mechanisms of molecules crucial for life as we know it. She also discovered important structures within the rings of dust and gas surrounding young stars, the birthplace of planets and comets.

Van Dishoeck is professor of molecular astrophysics at the University of Leiden and has played a leading role in advancing the field of astrophysics. This includes serving on the board of the internationally-supported Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. With this exceptional instrument, van Dishoeck and her colleagues have studied the formation of solar-type stellar systems within our galaxy.

In 2013 the AAS Council (now Board of Trustees) elected van Dishoeck as an Honorary Member of the Society. In August, at the XXX General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union, van Dishoeck will assume the presidency of the IAU. (The IAU also issued a press release about their president-elect's Kavli Prize on 31 May.)

The Kavli Prize is a partnership between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Kavli Foundation (US), and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The Kavli Prize recognizes scientists for pioneering advances in our understanding of existence at its biggest, smallest, and most complex scales. It is presented every two years in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. Laureates are nominated by committees whose members are recommended by The Chinese Academy of Sciences, The French Academy of Sciences, The Max Planck Society (Germany), The National Academy of Sciences (US), The Royal Society (UK) and the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Winners receive gold medals in Oslo, Norway, in a ceremony presided over by His Majesty King Harald. A banquet takes place at Oslo's City Hall, the venue of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

The 2018 Kavli Prizes will be awarded on Tuesday, 4 September. Congratulations, Dr. van Dishoeck!