BATON ROUGE — The Southeastern Universities Research Association announced that Gabriela González, professor of physics and astronomy at LSU and former spokesperson of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Scientific Collaboration, will receive the 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award.
The annual honor goes to a research scientist whose extraordinary work fulfills the association's mission to “advance collaborative research and education” in the Southeast and nation," a news release said.
“Dr. González is a world-renowned scientist and educator. Her ground-breaking research, international leadership and dedication to her students has produced high rewards in fundamental science, astronomy and technology,” said LSU President F. King Alexander.
The award and its $5,000 honorarium will be presented to González on April 25 at the association's Board of Trustees meeting, which will be held at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia.
González has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 1997 and was elected as its spokesperson in 2011. LIGO consists of two highly sensitive instruments in two remote areas. One observatory is in Hanford, Washington, and the other is in Livingston — operated in unison as a single observatory. LIGO is operated by the LIGO Laboratory, a consortium of the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, LIGO is an international resource for both physics and astrophysics. González’s group has been involved with the characterization of the noise in the LIGO detectors; the improvement of the detectors’ sensitivity; the calibration of the detectors; and the analysis of the data.
In September 2015, LIGO made the first direct detection of gravitational waves, which were emitted by a pair of coalescing black holes about 1.3 billion light years away. The observatory has since identified four additional black hole mergers.
González was named a member of the National Academy of Science in 2017, and she received the academy's Award for Scientific Discovery with Peter Saulson and David Reitze. She was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences last year and was awarded the Bruno Rossi prize by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society. She was named one of the world’s top 10 scientists of 2016 by Nature.
“In addition to her scientific achievements, Gabriela González has been especially active in mentoring students, talking to the public, especially in presenting the LIGO discovery, and more generally, in effectively promoting science,” said Barry Barish, of CalTech, who shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics with Kip Thorne, of CalTech, and Rainer Weiss, of MIT, for their work at LIGO.