Balzan Prize 2021 for Alessandra Buonanno

Professor Buonanno is awarded in the field of "Gravitation: physical and astrophysical aspects".

September 13, 2021

The International Balzan Prize Foundation awards four annual prizes to scientists who have made internationally recognized achievements in their research fields. Buonanno shares the 750,000 Swiss franc award with Prof. Thibault Damour of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in France. The awards ceremony will be held on 1 July 2022 in Bern, Switzerland.

The Balzan Foundation announced the award to Alessandra Buonanno and the other laureates today in a live Internet stream. Alessandra Buonanno and Thibault Damour are being honored for "their leadership in predicting gravitational-wave signals produced by the inspiral and merger of two very compact objects, such as neutron stars and black holes. Their work was crucial to observe and interpret gravitational waves, providing an extremely accurate confirmation of general relativity."

"I am very delighted to receive this prestigious award," says Alessandra Buonanno, director of the department "Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity" at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Potsdam. "I am particularly pleased that half of the prize money will be used to support young scientists. The promotion of junior scientists is very close to my heart; with their commitment, enthusiasm and creativity, they have contributed significantly to the success of the newly born field of gravitational-wave astronomy. The young, talented researchers are our future!" The statutes of the Balzan Foundation stipulate that half of the prize money is to be used for research projects in which young researchers are preferably involved.

Prof. Dr. Alessandra Buonanno

Alessandra Buonanno is a leading theorist in the field of gravitational-wave physics. Her research on waveform modeling has been essential in the detection of gravitational waves from binary black holes and neutron stars, and the physical interpretation of the signals. Together with Thibault Damour, she developed a novel approach to study the two-body problem in General Relativity–the effective-one-body formalism–in order to achieve highly accurate waveform models. Buonanno pioneered and greatly contributed to the successful synergistic approach of combining numerical-relativity techniques with analytical-relativity methods with the goal of developing the most accurate and efficient waveform models for gravitational-wave observations. Together with her group members at AEI and the University of Maryland, Alessandra Buonanno is also developing waveform models for the planned gravitational-wave detectors on Earth (the European Einstein Telescope and Cosmic Explorer in the United States) and in space (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna/LISA). 

Alessandra Buonanno studied theoretical physics in Pisa, and held faculty positions in Paris and at the University of Maryland, where she became full professor in 2010. She is a Principal Investigator of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. For her contributions to LIGO and Virgo discoveries, she was awarded several prizes, including the 2018 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz prize – the most prestigious research prize in Germany –, the 2021 Galileo Galilei Medal and the 2021 Dirac Medal. In 2021, she has been elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, of the US National Academy of Sciences, and of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Buonanno is a Fellow of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation, and of the American Physical Society. She holds a research professorship at the University of Maryland, and honorary professorships at the Humboldt University in Berlin, and at the University of Potsdam.

Balzan Prize
The International Balzan Prize Foundation aims to promote culture and science worldwide, as well as meritorious initiatives for peace and brotherhood among peoples. The Balzan Prizes, awarded annually, are selected by the Awards Committee in the categories of humanities, social sciences and arts as well as physics, mathematics, natural sciences and medicine. The four annual prizes, two per category, are awarded to researchers or artists who have made internationally recognized achievements in their field of activity.

Since 2001, according to the statutes, the prize winners must use half of the prize money for research projects in which preferably young scientists are involved.

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