Lucy Ziurys and Brett McGuire Named LAD Prizewinners
The AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) has singled out two outstanding scientists to receive prizes in 2019. LAD's highest honor, the Laboratory Astrophysics Prize, goes to Prof. Lucy Ziurys (University of Arizona) for her outstanding contributions to rotational spectroscopy of transient molecules and radio astronomy. The LAD Early Career Award goes to Dr. Brett McGuire (National Radio Astronomy Observatory) for his significant laboratory and observational advancements in our knowledge of the inventory and evolution of complex molecules in the interstellar medium.
The Laboratory Astrophysics Prize is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time. For decades Ziurys has pioneered innovative experimental techniques to study the rotational spectra and structure of transient molecules — short-lived molecules that arise during intermediate steps in chemical reactions and radiate at specific wavelengths when their rotational state changes. These molecules are key to understanding the composition, physical state, and evolution of interstellar and circumstellar material and to interpreting data derived from radio telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The strong synergy developed by Ziurys between astrophysical molecular spectroscopy and radio astronomy has significantly advanced our understanding of the evolution of the molecular composition of our universe through the detection of new interstellar species.
Ziurys received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and is now Professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry and Astronomy at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the author of more than 300 publications in molecular rotational spectroscopy and astrophysics. Previous honors include fellowship in the American Physical Society and receipt of the Barbara Mez-Starck Prize in Molecular Spectroscopy. In addition to serving the community as Director of the Arizona Radio Observatory, she was a member of the Committee on the Origin and Evolution of Life in the universe for the National Academies Space Studies Board, the Committee on Radio Frequencies for the National Academies Board on Physics & Astronomy, and the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Working Group (the precursor to LAD). She was also on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy.
McGuire’s research combines laboratory spectroscopy and radio/submillimeter observations. He led laboratory and observational efforts resulting in the detections of propylene oxide (the first chiral interstellar molecule) and benzonitrile (the first benzene-ring molecule seen with radio astronomy), among others, in interstellar gas. He is currently leading the GOTHAM (GBT Observations of TMC-1: Hunting Aromatic Molecules) large project on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). This 400-plus-hour observing campaign is studying the potential hidden reservoir of large complex molecules in Taurus Molecular Cloud 1, the same source in which benzonitrile was discovered. GOTHAM is coupled with a dedicated microwave spectroscopy program aimed not only at measuring the spectra of molecules of interest, but also at studying the formation of the first few aromatic rings from simple, interstellar precursors and their subsequent evolution toward the ubiquitous but enigmatic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
McGuire received his PhD in physical chemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 2015. He was a Jansky Postdoctoral Fellow at NRAO and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics before becoming a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow in 2017 at the same institutions. He received a 2018 Young Investigator Award from the American Chemical Society’s Physical Chemistry Division and, in addition to the GBT, has also secured observing time on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, ALMA, the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy, and other state-of-the-art telescopes.
Both prizes include a cash award, a framed certificate, and an invited lecture by the recipient at a meeting of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division — the next of which will be held in conjunction with the 234th AAS meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.
— Daniel Wolf Savin (LAD Secretary), Farid Salama (Chair, LAP Committee) & Phillip Stancil (Chair, ECA Committee)