Diana Valencia
(Photo courtesy of Diana Valencia)

Diana Valencia recognized with Paulo Farinella Prize

The University of Toronto Scarborough’s Diana Valencia has been awarded a Paulo Farinella Prize for her pioneering work on exoplanets.

Valencia was this year’s co-recipient of the prestigious European research award, for her contributions to our understanding of the interior structure and dynamics of terrestrial and super-Earth exoplanets.

“I have seen the field grow from not knowing anyone else studying these planets when I was a PhD student, to a flourishing research field attracting numerous young scientists,” said Valencia, an associate professor in the department of physical and environmental sciences.

“It feels particularly special to be recognized in the research field I helped to grow from the beginning.”

Valencia was one of the first scientists to combine geophysics and astrophysics to study exoplanets. She developed the first interior model and first mass-radius relationship for rocky exoplanets (1-10 Earth masses). Her exploration into the possibility of plate tectonics on super-Earths spurred a lively debate in the field that continues today.

She has also explored the composition of these planets, which has been essential for comparing them to Earth and other exoplanets. Her work on exoplanet GJ 1214b, in particular, has inspired atmospheric observations of super-Earths and mini-Neptunes to better determine their composition.

Read the U of T Scarborough story