Vicky Kalogera, a Northwestern University astrophysicist who played a key role in the historic discovery of gravitational waves — confirming a major prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity and launching a new field in astronomy — has been named the 16th recipient of the Martin E. and Gertrude G. Walder Award for Research Excellence.
The award, established in 2002 by alumnus Dr. Joseph A. Walder and given annually by the provost, recognizes excellence in research at Northwestern.
“Vicky is a highly prolific and influential scholar in the fields of physics and astronomy,” Provost Daniel Linzer said. “She is a senior member of the international team that detected the first direct evidence of gravitational waves. With these data, her team also made the first direct observation of two black holes colliding.”
Kalogera is director of Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA) and the Erastus O. Haven Professor of Physics and Astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.
Her research focuses on the physics of compact astrophysical objects, specifically white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes. She is particularly interested in the formation and evolution of binary systems, in which two stars orbit each other.
Kalogera is a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which conducts research related to the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. She serves on the collaboration’s executive committee and has led the astrophysical interpretation of the first discovery of colliding black holes.
“Vicky’s leadership skills are well known within LIGO and here at Northwestern, where she has transformed the astrophysics effort and established CIERA, one of our most successful enterprises,” said Michael Schmitt, chair of Weinberg College’s department of physics and astronomy.
As a member of the LIGO team, Kalogera was included in the 2016 Gruber Prize in Cosmology and the 2016 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, both honoring the first detection of gravitational waves. She also was awarded the 2016 Hans Bethe Prize of the American Physical Society for her wide-ranging impact on compact-object astrophysics.
Kalogera serves on the committee on astronomy and astrophysics of the National Research Council and on the executive board of directors of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Corporation. The National Science Foundation, NASA and private foundations support her research.
Joseph Walder earned his doctoral and medical degrees from Northwestern and then founded a company that supplies synthetic DNA for research and clinical applications. A complete list of award recipients can be found on the Office of the Provost website.