UCLA scientist and Keck Observatory user Andrea Ghez has been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. She shares the prize with two other researchers; Roger Penrose, a British mathematical physicist and German astrophysicist Reinhard Genzel, for work in black holes and galaxies.
There is no Nobel prize in astronomy and the Nobel in physics has traditionally gone to scientists involved in hard physics for discoveries of some new theory or subatomic particle. It is only in recent years that we have seen a few Nobel prizes awarded to astronomers.
Andrea is the only Nobel recipient I have known personally. I can say one thing, she completely deserves it. While her scientific achievements may justify the award, her activities beyond the science are just as commendable.
Andrea is a senior scientist that takes her position seriously, using her status to mentor her students and providing a role model. She is tireless in advocating for women in astronomy, personally training some of the next generation of female astronomers.
A number of years back we were having our regular monthly astronomy club meeting at the observatory. I had a problem, the speaker had called me a few hours before and cancelled, thus I was preparing to deliver a hastily assembled backup presentation.
Just before the meeting I ran into Andrea and a few of her students in one of the little restaurants next door. I took a gamble and asked… Would you be available to talk to our club for a while? She did.
What transpired was not a canned 45 minute lecture, it started that way but quickly evolved into an hour long personal conversation about science and the pursuit of knowledge between Andrea and the dozen club members present.
Andrea is not only passionate about science, but understands how to pass that passion on to her students, or a few odd amateur astronomers.
Yes, she deserves the Nobel.