ann24016 — Announcement

Recipients of the IAU PhD Prize for 2023
13 May 2024
2023 IAU PhD Prize Winners Announced

The IAU PhD Prize recognises the outstanding scientific achievements of astronomy PhD students worldwide. Each of the IAU’s nine Divisions awards a prize to the candidate it identifies as having carried out the most remarkable work in the previous year, with the nine Divisions agreeing to jointly award an extra prize, the IAU PhD Prize-at-large. This year, the IAU received 65 PhD thesis applications, defended between 16 December 2022 and 15 December 2023. Divisions have also awarded eight honourable mentions, while no award has been given by Division A.

Each PhD prize winner will receive airfare, registration fee, and accommodation to attend the IAU XXXII General Assembly, which will be held in August 2024 in Cape Town, South Africa. Certificates will be awarded at Division Days, where, at the discretion of the Division, prize recipients may have an opportunity to present their thesis work.

The IAU Executive Committee is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 IAU PhD Prizes as follows:

Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science

Jeroen Audenaert, USA, “Artificial Intelligence in Astronomy: Unraveling Variable Stars with Machine Learning and the NASA Kepler and TESS Space Missions”

The Division B President, Gabriele Giovannini, and the Division B Steering Committee “found this work very interesting since it directly couples Machine Learning (and ML methods borrowed from other disciplines) to observations. The classification of light curves has a direct use for the flood of data coming from various surveys. This work led to relevant results.”

Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage

Johanna Casado, Argentina, “Research on Access, Use and Effective Exploration of Astronomical Observational and Bibliographic Data from Sonification”

The Division C President, Richard de Grijs, and the Division C Steering Committee “found Dr. Casado's PhD innovative and broadly applicable across national borders. Her efforts at using sonification to help visually impaired members of the public access and appreciate advances in astronomy have the potential to reach new, mostly untapped audiences. We live in a Golden Age of astronomical discoveries, but conveying these discoveries without visual cues is often difficult. Moreover, it is virtually impossible for the visually impaired community to participate in the joy of making their own discoveries in the absence of appropriate tools enabling them to do so. Dr. Casado's team developed a new software tool, xSonify, which was carefully tested and validated and eventually evolved into SonoUno. Its user-friendliness, free licensing and versatility make SonoUno a revolutionary software tool, enabling access for the visually impaired community. Her PhD thesis offers a comprehensive approach to the sonification of astronomical observations and its clear community needs.”

Division D High Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics

Yonadav Barry Ginat, Israel, “Gravitational Waves and Non-Linear Phenomena in Gravitational Astrophysics”

The Division D President, Isabelle Grenier, and the Division D Steering Committee “found this thesis on gravity and gravitational waves particularly deep and broad. By finding new gravitational-wave signatures in the in-spirals of compact objects, a universal power-law tail in the distribution of gravitational-wave background fluctuations, and a statistical solution to the 3-body problem that removes the need for extensive simulations in dynamical studies, this work will have a broad impact on galaxy census studies and multi-body orbital dynamics.”

Division E Sun and Heliosphere

Robert Jarolim, Austria, “Frontiers of Artificial Intelligence in Solar Physics”

The Division E President, Cristina Mandrini, and the Division E Steering Committee “found Robert Jarolim's thesis excellent and innovative. This thesis is devoted to the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in automatically identifying structures in solar images, performing transformations between different image domains, and assessing the quality of ground-based observations. Dr. Jarolim has also applied deep learning to perform magnetic field extrapolations and constrain the 3D global plasma distribution of the solar atmosphere. All his works are relevant to understanding the physical problems underlying the solar phenomena analysed. Dr. Jarolim’s list of publications is extensive.”

Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology

Mohammad Farhat, France/Lebanon, “Dissipation in the Earth-moon System”

The Division F President, Antonella Barucci, and the Division F Steering Committee “congratulate Dr. Farhat for his excellent pioneering work. The innovative work provides for the first time a coherent scenario for the tidal evolution of the Earth-Moon system. Dr. Farhat conducted groundbreaking research that significantly advanced our understanding of Earth’s geodynamics. His work represents a major achievement by advancing our understanding of the gravitational coupling of the Earth to the Sun, Moon, and other celestial bodies within our Solar System. His research is intricately woven around the profound and complex interplay between these celestial entities, shedding light on how their mutual gravitational interactions shape the dynamical evolution of our planet.”

Division G Stars and Stellar Physics

Roman Gerasimov, USA, “Evolution of Atmospheres and Chemistry of Ancient Stellar Populations”

The Division G President, Andrej Prsa, and the Division G Steering Committee “found Dr. Gerasimov's thesis work highly impactful and relevant. Dr. Gerasimov focused on the chemical analysis of globular star clusters, where he successfully challenged the frequently adopted paradigm that clusters are chemically uniform. In particular, the thesis proposes means to measure the chemical composition of lower-mass stars from colour photometry conducted from space. The principal conclusion of the thesis is the existence of multiple star formation events that cause the heterogeneous chemical composition of the cluster. The Committee was impressed by the combination of theoretical and observational aspects of the thesis, the extent of Dr. Gerasimov's acquired expertise (i.e., Phoenix, ATLAS and MESA models) and his commitment to work with undergraduate students.”

Division H Interstellar Matter and Local Universe

Charles Law, USA, “Zooming in on the Chemistry of Star and Planet Formation”

Division H President, Monica Rubio, and the Division H Steering Committee “found  Dr. Law’s thesis excellent and an outstanding candidate with a most impressive curriculum with high productivity and impact.”

Division J Galaxies and Cosmology

Scott Lucchini, USA, “The Magellanic Corona and its Role in the Evolution of the Magellanic Stream”

Division J President Kim-Vy Tran and the Division H Steering Committee awarded “Dr. Scott Lucchini the 2023 IAU PhD Prize for Division J for his thesis “The Magellanic Corona and its Role in the Evolution of the Magellanic Stream.” Using numerical simulations, he posited the existence of a warm circumgalactic medium around the Milky Way’s largest satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. This can explain the puzzling high ionisation fractions throughout the Magellanic Stream and gives us direct insights into the properties of dwarf galaxies and merger events throughout the Universe. The existence of the Magellanic Corona has been confirmed through direct observation of its present-day remnant around the LMC.”

IAU PhD at-large Prize

Abril Sahade, Argentina, “Deflection of Coronal Mass Ejections”

The IAU Divisions jointly said: “Dr. Sahade’s thesis combines a thorough and complete observational analysis and MHD simulations, including the development and implementation of observational analysis and numerical tools. The approach is innovative. The thesis is compelling not only for the advancement in the understanding of the underlying physics but also for space weather forecasting. Summarising, the thesis concentrates on the investigation of the evolution and deflection of erupting flux ropes (EFRs), the core of coronal mass ejections, from the early stages of their destabilisation in the lower corona. Multi-view point data (stereoscopic observations) are reconstructed in 3D to determine EFR trajectories and other physical parameters. Parametric studies using MHD simulations are performed to analyse factors contributing to the EFRs deflections. Particular complex events are modelled.”

Several Divisions also awarded honourable mentions to the following candidates:

  • Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science: Johannes Nasim Friedrich Heyl, UK, “A Statistical and Machine Learning Approach to the Study of Astrochemistry”

  • Division D High Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics: Andrea Sylvia Biscoveanu, USA, “From Black Holes to the Big Bang: Astrophysics and Cosmology with Gravitational Waves and their Electromagnetic Counterparts”

  • Division E Sun and Heliosphere: Devojyoti Kansabanik, India, “Deciphering Radio Emission from Solar Coronal Mass Ejections Using High-fidelity Spectropolarimetric Radio Imaging”

  • Division E Sun and Heliosphere: Xingyu Zhu, China, “Wave-like Turbulent Energy Partition and Transfer in the Solar Wind”

  • Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology: Adina Feinstein, USA, “A Multi-Wavelength Investigation of Young Stellar and Planetary Systems”

  • Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology: Andres F. Izquierdo, The Netherlands, “Mining the Kinematics of Discs to Hunt for Planets in Formation”

  • Division H Interstellar Matter and Local Universe: Elisa Rita Garro, Chile, “The Globular Cluster Systems of the Milky Way and the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy”

  • Division J Galaxies and Cosmology: Amruth Alfred, Hong Kong, “Theoretical Predictions for Observational Signatures of Granulation in Wave Dark Matter”

The IAU congratulates all prize winners and recipients of honourable mentions, wishes them every success in their future careers, and looks forward to another set of high-quality applications for next year’s awards.

The 2024 IAU PhD Prize application round is open for submissions until 15 December 2024 11:59 PM (UTC+1). The next set of winners will be announced in June 2025.

The IAU PhD Prize is open to candidates from any country, regardless of whether the country is an IAU National Member. Candidates must submit an abstract of their thesis, a 1500-word thesis summary, three letters of recommendation (including one from the PhD advisor), and a CV. The winner of each Division will be decided by the Division’s standards and methods – guided by the Division Steering Committee – and possibly by corroborating external consultation or additional letters of recommendation. A separate prize – the PhD Prize-at-large may be awarded to eligible applicants who conducted their PhD research under adverse conditions. Applicants interested in being considered for this PhD Prize-at-large must submit a contextual justification of no longer than 250 words to allow the assessment panel to determine their eligibility. (Please indicate whether this justification must remain confidential to the assessment panel.) If suitable candidates are identified, the PhD Prize-at-large will be awarded based on scientific merit.

More information

The IAU is the international astronomical organisation that brings together more than 12 000 active professional astronomers from more than 100 countries worldwide. Its mission is to promote and safeguard astronomy in all its aspects, including research, communication, education and development, through international cooperation. The IAU also serves as the internationally recognised authority for assigning designations to celestial bodies and the surface features on them. Founded in 1919, the IAU is the world's largest professional body for astronomers.



Lina Canas
IAU Membership Coordinator
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Guido Schwarz
IAU Press Officer

About the Announcement



Recipients of the IAU PhD Prize for 2023