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WVU Astronomers Awarded Prestigious Shaw Prize in Astronomy


The 2023 Shaw Prize has been awarded to West Virginia University Professors, Duncan Lorimer and Maura McLaughlin, for the discovery of fast radio bursts (FRBs).  

The Shaw Prize is an international award to honor individuals who have recently achieved distinguished and significant advances in the fields of Astronomy, Life Sciences and Medicine, and Mathematical Sciences. Awardees are those who have made outstanding contributions in academic and scientific research or applications, or who in other domains have achieved excellence. The award is dedicated to furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity's spiritual civilization.

FRBs are millisecond-duration pulses of cosmological origin first discovered by the team in 2007. While their origins are still not entirely understood, it is very likely that at least some fraction of them are produced by magnetars––highly magnetized neutron stars––which are known to emit powerful radio flares. Since the discovery of the first FRB, hundreds more have been detected by radio telescopes world-wide, leading to an entirely new area of astronomical exploration. In the future, studies of FRBs are expected to reveal unique insights into extremely energetic processes and the large-scale structure of our universe.

Duncan LorimerDuncan Lorimer, PhD, is Professor and interim chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University and serves as Associate Dean of Research for the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. Lorimer’s scholarly achievements have been recognized on several occasions: a Cottrell Scholar Award in 2008 from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement (RCSA) and both the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and WVU’s recognition for excellence in teaching (2009, 2010) as well as the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award in the Physical Sciences in 2019. Since 1994, Lorimer has been a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and in 2018 he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS).

  Artist's conception of fast radio burst reaching Earth. (Credit: Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium) 

Artist's conception of fast radio burst reaching Earth. (Credit: Jingchuan Yu, Beijing Planetarium)

Maura McLaughlinMaura McLaughlin, PhD,  is the Eberly Family Distinguished Professor in Physics and Astronomy at West Virginia University, and the Director of the Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology. She also serves as  co-Director of the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Center. She has been named a 2020 Highly Cited Researcher by Web of Science, one of the world’s top research awards.  She has been awarded an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, a Cottrell Scholar Award from the RCSA for her work, and was elected a Fellow of the APS in 2021.

"The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences is extremely proud and excited by the news that Professors McLaughlin and Lorimer have been honored as Shaw Laureates along with their colleague Dr. Bailes,” states Dean Gregory Dunaway, of WVU Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.  “McLaughlin and Lorimer’s discovery of Fast Radio Bursts has revolutionized the understanding of several significant aspects of our universe.  Their contributions have clearly placed the Astrophysics program within our college and WVU at the forefront of this scientific frontier.”

The full press release from the Shaw Foundation can be found here.

Holly Legleiter, Public Relations Coordinator
Center for Gravitational Waves and Cosmology