Professor Lisa Kewley awarded 2020 James Craig Watson Medal

January 23, 2020

Academy Fellow Professor Lisa Kewley has been named as the recipient of the 2020 James Craig Watson Medal by the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC for her pioneering contributions to the study of galaxy formation and evolution.

Academy Fellow Professor Lisa Kewley

She is the first person in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere to be recognised with the major US award in its 133-year history. Professor Kewley is the director of ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3D (ASTRO 3D) and ARC Laureate Fellow at ANU’s Research School for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Widely cited by astronomers around the world, she produced the first models for star-forming galaxies to include a variable galactic temperature and density distribution, developed theoretical models to identify galactic power sources, and investigated oxygen distribution left by colliding galaxies, among many other accomplishments.

Professor Lister Staveley-Smith, chair of the Academy’s National Committee for Astronomy, noted that “Professor Kewley is one of Australia’s leading astronomers, and in recognition of her contributions to the discipline in this country, the Australian Academy of Science elected her as a Fellow in 2014.

"She was appointed chair of the National Committee for Astronomy from 2016 – 2018. In December 2019, Nature Astronomy published her article, Diversity and inclusion in Australian astronomy, highlighting equity programs in Australia that are having an important impact.”

She is currently looking at the oxygen history of galaxies like the Milky Way.

In an ASTRO 3D press release, Professor Kewley said that advances in technology have made it a ‘golden era’ for astronomy.

“Early in my career, I benefited from the Hubble Space Telescope and the 10 metre Keck telescopes in Hawaii.

“Students starting today are going to have access to amazing new telescopes including the James Webb Space Telescope, massive new optical telescopes in Chile and the Square Kilometre Array in Australia and South Africa. We’re going to require astronomers, engineers, data experts and artificial intelligence to use these new instruments, taking us back to the moment of the Big Bang, finding new planets and more.”

The National Academy of Sciences presents the James Craig Watson Medal every two years for outstanding contributions to the science of astronomy. She will receive the award on 26 April during the National Academy of Sciences' 157th annual meeting. Winners receive a gold-plated bronze medal, a $25,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research. It was established by NAS Member and Canadian–American astronomer, James Craig Watson.

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