Former DTM Predoc and Carnegie Trustee Sandy Faber Awarded Gruber Cosmology Prize

Sandy Faber

Former DTM predoctoral fellow and current trustee, astronomer Sandra Faber, has been awarded the 2017 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize.

The Gruber Cosmology Prize is awarded annually to a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist or scientific philosopher in recognition of their discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the universe.

Sandy FaberSandy Faber (right), with fellow Carnegie women astronomers at the memorial luncheon for Vera Rubin hosted by DTM on February 28. 2017. (Photo by Natasha Metzler, DTM)

Faber was awarded the lifetime achievement award this year for her groundbreaking studies of the structure, dynamics, and evolution of galaxies. Her work provided the impetus to study dark matter, the invisible material that makes up most of the mass of the universe, in addition to the recognition that black holes reside at the heart of most large galaxies.

While at DTM from 1970 to 1971, Faber was mentored by Kent Ford and the late Vera Rubin, who passed away in 2016 at the age off 88. In an interview with the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in 1988, she credits her time at DTM with discovering her niche, galaxies.

"That was a very good atmosphere because they were very interested in galaxies," says Faber to AIP of her time at DTM. "I like to call Vera [Rubin] my defacto thesis supervisor."

Sandy FaberSandy Faber (left) with fellow Carnegie trustee, Deborah Rose (right), at a Board dinner held at Carnegie's Broad Branch Road campus on May 10, 2017. (Photo by Janice Dunlap, DTM)

Today, she is a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and works at the Lick Observatory. She is best known for the discoveries linking the brightness of galaxies to the speed of stars within them and was instrumental in designing the Keck telescopes in Hawaii. She is also the co-discoverer of the Faber-Jackson relation, a means of estimating the distance to a galaxy by relating it to a more easily observable property of the galaxy.

Carnegie scientists have a long history of receiving the Gruber Prize. Rubin was awarded the prize in 2002 for her preeminent work in the motions of galaxies. Mary-Claire King, a Carnegie trustee, received it in 2004 for her work on genetics. Allan Spradling, former director and current staff member of Carnegie's Department of Embryology, was awarded the prize in 2008 for leading the development of genetics and stem cell biology. Wendy Freedman, former director of the Observatories, received the prize in 2009 for the definitive measurement of the rate of expansion of the universe, Hubble's constant. The late Allan Sandage, former staff member at the Observatories who passed away in 2010 at the age of 84, received the prize in 2000 for his work in theoretical cosmology.

The prize will be awarded to Faber at the ceremony this fall. It comes with a $500,000 unrestricted cash prize and a gold medal.

May 19, 2017

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