Assistant Professor Maria Drout (supplied image)

Maria Drout awarded Newton Lacy Pierce Prize

Maria Drout, an assistant professor at the David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, has been awarded the 2024 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize by the American Astronomical Society.

The prize is awarded annually to an astronomer under the age of 36 for outstanding achievement in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object.

Drout, who is an associate at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, was part of the first team to see a source of gravitational waves in visible light, created by two merging neutron stars in a galaxy 130 million light-years away. More recently, she helped uncover the first-known population of helium stars stripped in binaries, developing a new survey in the ultraviolet spectrum to find them.

Drout said the accolade is a “huge honour,” noting that it’s especially meaningful because it recognizes a time in her career that was deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I started my faculty position in 2018, so I had just a year and a half before the pandemic hit,” Drout said. “Then we had to figure out how to make the research group work almost entirely remotely for a couple of years, both in terms of access to telescopes and even just how students worked with me and worked with each other. It was very difficult to navigate.”

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