Andrea Gez, UCLA̵
Gez shares half of the award with Reinhard Genzel of UC Berkeley and the Max Planck Institute for Alien Physics. The Nobel Committee praised them for “discovering a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy.” The other half of the award was given to Roger Penrose by University of Oxford “For the discovery that Black hole formation is a reliable prediction of the general theory of relativity. “
In July 2019, the journal Science published a study by Ghez and her research team, which is the most comprehensive test of Albert Einstein’s iconic general theory of relativity near the monstrous black hole at the center of our galaxy. Although it concluded that “Einstein was right, at least for now,” the research team continued to test Einstein’s theory, which it said could not fully explain gravity in the black hole.
Gez is exploring more than 3,000 stars orbiting a supermassive black hole. Black holes have such a high density that nothing can escape their gravitational pull, not even light. The center of most galaxies appears to have a supermassive black hole, she said.
“I am excited and incredibly honored to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics,” said Gez, who is director of the UCLA Galactic Center. “The research that the Nobel Committee honors today is the result of a wonderful collaboration between scientists from the UCLA Galactic Center Initiative and the reasonable investment of the University of California at the WM Keck Observatory.
“We have state-of-the-art tools and a world-class research team, and this combination makes the discovery extremely fun. Our understanding of how the universe works is still so incomplete. The Nobel Prize is great, but we still have a lot to learn. “
UCLA Chancellor Jean Block praised Gez for her achievements.
“The UCLA community is extremely proud of Professor Gez’s achievements, including this extraordinary honor,” Block said. “We are inspired by her research, revealing the secrets of our universe and its potential to help us better understand space.”
David Haviland, chairman of the Nobel Committee on Physics, said: “The findings of this year’s winners have taken a new position in the study of compact and supermassive objects. But these exotic objects still raise many questions that ask for answers and motivate future research. Not only questions about their internal structure, but also questions about how to test our theory of gravity under extreme conditions in close proximity to a black hole. “
Gez and her team made direct measurements of how gravity works near a supermassive black hole, a study she describes as “extreme astrophysics.”
Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the best description of how gravity works. “However, his theory definitely shows vulnerability,” Gez said in 2019. “[A]at some point we will have to move beyond Einstein’s theory to a more comprehensive theory of gravity that explains what a black hole is. “
Less than two months after its publication in Science, she and her research team reported in the Astrophysical Journal Letters the surprising finding that the supermassive black hole has an unusually large consumption of interstellar gas and dust – and they still don’t understand why.
“We’ve never seen anything like it in the 24 years we’ve been studying the supermassive black hole,” she said at the time. “It’s usually a pretty quiet, crappy black hole on a diet. We do not know what drives this great holiday. “
In January 2020, her team announced the discovery of a new class of bizarre objects – objects that look like gas and behave like stars – in the center of our galaxy, not far from the supermassive black hole.
Gez and her team conducted their research at the WM Keck Observatory in Hawaii. They are able to see the impact of how space and time connect near the supermassive black hole, which is about 26,000 light-years away.
“Performing measurements of such fundamental importance requires years of patient observation, thanks to state-of-the-art technology,” said Richard Green, director of astronomy at the National Science Foundation, in 2019.
“Andrea is one of Keck’s most passionate and persistent users,” said Keck Observatory director Hilton Lewis, also in 2019. “Her latest groundbreaking study is the culmination of her unwavering commitment over the past two decades to uncover the secrets of the supermassive black hole.” in the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. “
The National Science Foundation has funded Ghez’s research for the past 25 years. More recently, her research has also been funded by the WM Keck Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and the Heising-Simons Foundation, Lauren Leichtman and Arthur Levine, and Howard and Astrid Preston.
In 1998, Gez answered one of the most important questions in astronomy, helping to show that a supermassive black hole is at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The issue has been the subject of much debate among astronomers for more than a quarter of a century.
Technology that changed the field
Gez helped pioneer a powerful technology called adaptive optics that corrects the distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere in real time and opened the center of our galaxy as a laboratory to study black holes and their major role in the evolution of the universe. With adaptive optics at Keck’s Observatory, she and her colleagues revealed many surprises about the environment around supermassive black holes, finding, for example, young stars where no one was expected and a lack of old stars where many were expected.
In 2000, Gez and her research team reported that astronomers had first seen stars accelerate around a supermassive black hole. In 2003, she and her team announced that the Milky Way black hole case had been significantly intensified and that all proposed alternatives could be ruled out.
In 2005, Gez and her colleagues took the first clear picture of the center of the Milky Way, including the area around the black hole, at the Kek Observatory.
Gez has won numerous awards for his research, including being elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is the first woman to receive the Crawford Award from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2008. In 2019, she was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Oxford.
Gez received a bachelor’s degree in physics from C in 1987 and a doctorate from Caltech in 1992, and she has been a member of the UCLA faculty since 1994. When she was young, she wanted to be the first woman to go to the moon.
Lessons from a stellar career
At a UCLA press conference hours after the announcement of the Nobel Prize, Gez discussed his research and shared lessons from his entire career.
Asked about the potential for competition between astronomers to make the next big discovery, she said it took her about 10 years to master the approach that continues to serve her: “Focus on learning right instead of being first.” .
Among her future goals, she said, is to learn and test how gravity works near a supermassive black hole.
Gez also encouraged young science-loving students to pursue their dreams and learn how to overcome obstacles. “Follow your passions,” she said, “and be persistent.” Find comfort with discomfort. “
And she admitted that she was pleased to be recognized as a role model for young women, as she had been for decades. She published “You Can Be a Female Astronomer” in 1995.
Gez is the eighth UCLA lecturer to be nominated for a Nobel Laureate, joining Willard Libby (Chemistry, 1960), Julian Schwinger (Physics, 1965), Donald Crum (Chemistry, 1987), Paul Boyer (Chemistry, 1997), and Luis Ignaro ( physiology or medicine, 1998), Lloyd Shapley (economics, 2012) and J. Fraser Stoddart (2016). It was Stoddart Northwestern University a member of the faculty when he received the honor, but much of the work for which he was recognized was carried out at UCLA from 1997 to 2008.
In addition, seven UCLA alumni have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
Gez is also the fourth woman to receive the Physics Award, after Marie Curie in 1903, Marie Hepert Meyer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018.
Read Andrea Gez won a share of the 2020 Nobel Prize for discoveries in black hole physics for more on this topic.