Physics Chair Forges Ahead

The Alder Women’s Board recently recognized Meg Urry, Israel Munson Professor of Physics & Astronomy and the Department Chair of Physics, with the Women in Space Science Award. Previous awardees include elite women scientists, such as former NASA Spacecraft Commander Eileen Collins and members of the Mercury 13—the thirteen women who qualified in 1961 to be the first Americans to orbit the Earth but were denied the opportunity due to their gender. Urry describes the recipients of the award as having “very distinguished careers in research, and I’m happy to be in their company.”

Urry researches super-massive black holes, located at the center of galaxies. Scientists believe that almost all galaxies have a super-massive black hole at their center, even our own Milky Way Galaxy. However, this should not cause concern because most of these black holes are dormant. Urry explores how these black holes grow over time and the effect their growth has on the surrounding galaxy.

When she is not studying black holes and the evolution of the universe, Urry is busy working to bridge the gender gap that exists in science, particularly in the field of physics. Urry advises, “If universities are educating female scientists in whatever field, they are strong enough scientists to be hired back after they graduate. And if we’re not doing that, then we’re missing talent.”

It is for her combined research and outreach efforts that Urry has been named this year’s Women in Space Science Award Winner. Urry hopes that by winning this award, she will serve as a role model for future women scientists.