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UMD Physicist Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Alessandra Buonanno Helped Lead Project That Discovered Gravitational Waves

By Maryland Today Staff

PSC atrium image

Photos by John T. Consoli

Physicist Alessandra Buonanno (below), a research professor at UMD, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

A University of Maryland physicist who played a key role in to the recent discovery of gravitational waves has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Research Professor Alessandra Buonanno is the director of the Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity Department at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam and also holds an appointment in the UMD Department of Physics, which she joined in 2005.

ALESSANDRA BUONANNOBuonanno's research spans several topics in gravitational wave theory, data analysis and cosmology. She is a principal investigator of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which first detected gravitational waves in 2015, a century after Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicted them, and her waveform modeling of cosmological events has been crucial in the experiment’s many successes.

"I'm delighted to see that Alessandra's crucial contributions to gravitational wave research are being recognized," said UMD physics Professor Peter Shawhan. "She has always had a gift for knowing what rigorous theory work is important and for how it can be applied."

Buonanno, along with Department of Physics colleagues Professor Emeritus Charlie Misner, Shawhan and others detailed UMD's contributions to gravitational studies in a 2016 forum, A Celebration of Gravitational Waves.

Earlier in 2021, she was awarded the Galileo Galilei Medal of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics and was also elected to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which originated in 1652. In 2018, she received the Leibniz Prize, Germany's prestigious research award and earlier in her career received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship at UMD. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation.

Buonanno was one of 59 women elected to the NAS this year, the most in the academy’s history. UMD Distinguished University Professor Michele Gelfand of the Department of Psychology was also elected this year.

Other UMD physics members include Michael Fisher, Jim Gates, Chris Jarzynski, John Mather, Chris Monroe, Bill Phillips, Roald Sagdeev, Rob Tycko, John Weeks and Ellen Williams.

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