For immediate release
According to a press release issued by the American Astronomical Society, the Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is awarding its 2019 Laboratory Astrophysics Prize to Professor Lucy Ziurys (Ph.D. Chem, '84) of the University of Arizona for her outstanding contributions to rotational spectroscopy of transient molecules and radio astronomy.
The Laboratory Astrophysics Prize, LAD's highest honor, is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time. For decades Ziurys has pioneered innovative experimental techniques to study the rotational spectra and structure of transient molecules -- short-lived molecules that arise during intermediate steps in chemical reactions and radiate at specific wavelengths when their rotational state changes. These molecules are key to understanding the composition, physical state, and evolution of interstellar and circumstellar material and to interpreting data derived from radio telescopes such as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The strong synergy developed by Ziurys between astrophysical molecular spectroscopy and radio astronomy has significantly advanced our understanding of the evolution of the molecular composition of our universe through the detection of new interstellar species.
Ziurys received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and is now Professor of Chemistry/Biochemistry and Astronomy at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She is the author of more than 300 publications in molecular rotational spectroscopy and astrophysics. Previous honors include fellowship in the American Physical Society (APS) and receipt of the Barbara Mez-Starck Prize in Molecular Spectroscopy. In addition to serving the community as Director of the Arizona Radio Observatory (ARO), she was a member of the Committee on the Origin and Evolution of Life in the universe for the National Academies Space Studies Board, the Committee on Radio Frequencies for the National Academies Board on Physics & Astronomy, and the AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Working Group (the precursor to LAD). She was also on the editorial board of the Journal of Molecular Spectroscopy.