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Andrea Mia Ghez – The Wonder Women of Science

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Andrea Mia Ghez is an accomplished astrophysicist. She won the Nobel Prize Award in Physics for “The discovery of a supermassive compact object, now generally recognised to be a black hole, in the Milky Way’s galactic “centre. Andrea shares one half of the price with Reinhard Genzel and the other half with Roger Penrose. She is an American Astronomer and Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Black holes are very exotic objects. Technically, a black hole puts a huge amount of mass inside of zero volume. So our understanding of the center of black holes doesn’t make sense, which is a big clue to physicists that we don’t have our physics quite right.

Andrea M. Ghez

Andrea Mia Ghez was born on 16 June 1965, in New York City. She was born to Susanne (Gayton) and Gilbert Ghez. Her father, Gilbert Ghez, was of Jewish Heritage, was born in Rome, Italy. His family originally was from Frankfurt, Germany. Her mother, Susanne Gayton, was from an Irish Catholic family who reside in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

Her family moved from New York to Chicago when she was a child where she attended the University of Chicago Law School to complete education. And later, received a BS in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1987. She also got a PhD under the direction of Gerry Neugebauer at the California Institute of Technology in 1992. The Apollo Program Moon Landings inspired Ghez to aspire and be the first female astronaut. This dream was encouraged and supported by her mother. Her most influential female role model was her high school chemistry teacher. Ghez is happily married to Tom LaTourrette, a geologist and research scientist at the RAND Corporation. They have two sons. She is an active swimmer in the Masters’ Swim Club.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Science awarded the one half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics to Roger Penrose (a mathematician and physicist). It was for “the discovery that the black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity”. The other half was jointly given to Reinhard Genzel (co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics) and Andrea Ghez, “for the discovery of supermassive compact object (black hole) at the centre of our galaxy, Milky Way”. She led a team of astronomers that formed on a region called Sagittarius A* (star-forming regions) at the centre of the Milky Way.

She has the World’s Largest telescope, a high spatial resolution imaging techniques, such as the adaptive optics system at the Keck telescopes and developed methods to see through the clouds of interstellar gas and dust to the centre of the galaxy, Milky Way. In 2000, Ghez was also mentioned in Discover Magazine as one of the Top 20 Scientists of the United States. In 2004, Ghez was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2019, Ghez was elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). She is known as the Science Hero by “The My Hero Project”. Ghez has appeared in many television documentaries produced by networks such as the BBC, Discovery Channel, and The History Channel.

The Keck telescope, which is the largest in the world, had opened just before I began my faculty position at UCLA.

Andrea M. Ghez

• Annie J. Cannon Award in Astronomy (1994)
• Packard Fellowship award (1996)
• Newton Lacy Pierce Prize in Astronomy of the American Astronomical Society (1998)
• Maria Goeppert-Mayer Award of the American Physical Society (1999)
• Sackler Prize (2004)
• Gold Shield Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence (2004)
• Marc Aaronson Memorial Lectureship (2007)
• MacArthur Fellowship (2008)
• Crafoord Prize in Astronomy (2012)
• Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (2012)
• Royal Society Bakerian Medal (2015)
• Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of Oxford (2019)
• Fellow of the American Physical Society (2019)
• Elected a Legacy Fellow of the American Astronomical Society (2020)
• Nobel Prize in Physics (2020)

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