Top astronomers’ group honors Yale physics chair, Meg Urry

C. Megan Urry, chair of Yale’s physics department, has been named the winner of the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) major annual award for extraordinary service to astronomy.

An expert in supermassive black holes and a noted advocate for women in science, Urry received the George Van Biesbroeck Prize at the AAS’s 219th semiannual meeting in Austin, Texas, in early January.

Named after Belgian-American astronomer George Van Biesbroeck, the prize honors Urry "for her tireless efforts to enhance the participation of women in astronomy and other scientific disciplines, through the organization of meetings, written works, lectures, and effective mentoring, done outside and in addition to her work as a scientist."

The citation further notes: “Through the years [Urry] has helped transform our field from one with a rather restrictive view of who belongs in the profession to one that is now held as an example for other disciplines on how to diversify the field. She did all this while at the same time achieving a distinguished career in astrophysics herself.”

In addition to serving as chair of the physics department, Urry is the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy and director of the Yale Center for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Based in Washington, D.C., the American Astronomical Society is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. It publishes three of the leading peer-reviewed journals in Astronomy — The Astrophysical Journal, The Astronomical Journal, and Astronomy Education Review.