Distinguished Alumni Awardee 2012 - Andrea M. Ghez (PhD '93)

She earned her BS in physics from MIT in 1987 and her PhD from Caltech in 1993, and she has been on the faculty at UCLA since 1994. She has used the Keck telescopes to demonstrate the existence of a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, with a mass four million times that of our sun. This is the best evidence yet that these exotic objects really do exist, and it provides us with an opportunity to study the fundamental laws of physics in the extreme environment near a black hole and to learn what role this black hole has played in the formation and evolution of our galaxy.

"As a Caltech alumna, I've had access to the very best research facilities, faculty, and training that the world can offer and have a degree for which the rest of the world has tremendous respect. With a Caltech degree, people take you seriously the first time they meet you."

Professor Ghez has actively disseminated her work to a wide variety of audiences through more than 100 refereed papers and 200 invited talks, as well features in textbooks, documentaries, and science exhibits. She has received numerous honors and awards, including the Crafoord Prize, a MacArthur Fellowship, election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Aaronson Award from the University of Arizona, the Sackler Prize from Tel Aviv University, the American Physical Society’s Maria Goeppert Mayer Award, the American Astronomical Society’s Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Packard Fellowship, and several teaching awards. Her most recent service work includes membership on the National Research Council's Board on Physics and Astronomy, the Thirty Meter Telescope’s Science Advisory Committee, the Keck Observatory Science Steering Committee, and the Research Strategies Working Group of the UC Commission on the Future.