In October, astrophysicist Andrea Ghez ’87 became the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and the 38th in the list of MIT graduates with Nobels to their names.
Ghez, a professor at UCLA, and Reinhard Genzel, professor emeritus at UC Berkeley, share half the price for the discovery of a supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Using some of the world’s largest and most powerful telescopes, teams led by the two physicists scanned interstellar gas and dust to study the orbits of stars in the center of the galaxy, revealing that an object incredibly massive but invisible seems to shoot the stars. and throwing them at tremendous speeds.
“What Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel did was one of the coolest things ever: revealing stars at the center of our galaxy orbiting a black hole too small to be seen with a telescope,” says Peter Fisher, head of the physics department at MIT.
“Indeed, we have now understood that these behemoths live at the center of most galaxies,” says Nergis Mavalvala, PhD 97, professor of astrophysics and dean of the MIT School of Science. “Throughout her career, Andrea has been an impressive scientist and educator, and a role model for women and girls.
The other half of the prize went to Roger Penrose, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Oxford, for using ingenious mathematical models to prove that black holes are a direct consequence of the general theory of relativity d ‘Albert Einstein, even though Einstein himself didn’t believe them. could exist.
“I hope I can inspire other young women in the field,” Ghez said at a press conference. “This is an area that has so much fun, and if you are passionate about science, there is so much to do.”