For Work on Dark Matter, Geha Is Chosen One of the ‘Brilliant 10’

How do you become one of the brightest young scientists in the country? Knowing what you want to do before you're 10 years old doesn't hurt — at least in Yale astronomer Marla Geha's case.

How do you become one of the brightest young scientists in the country? Knowing what you want to do before you’re 10 years old doesn’t hurt — at least in Yale astronomer Marla Geha’s case.

She remembers watching the launch of the first Space Shuttle from her parents’ living room. Even though she was only seven years old at the time, she was instantly hooked on space.

Less than 30 years later, the Yale astronomer is doing cutting-edge science that, only a few years into her career, is making people take notice.

After a national search, Popular Science magazine has named Geha one of this year’s top-10 brilliant young scientists in the United States. The magazine’s “Brilliant 10” are featured in the November issue, which hit newsstands Oct. 15.

“Our annual ‘Brilliant 10’ franchise recognizes outstanding creativity, risk-taking and scientific achievements among young researchers,” says Popular Science editor Nicole Dyer.

Geha, now assistant professor of astronomy and physics, may not fly to the stars as she imagined as a child, but she does use some of the biggest telescopes on earth, as well as the Hubble Space Telescope, to study galaxies and help solve one of astronomy’s biggest mysteries: dark matter.

She’s discovered about half of the two dozen or so small, “dwarf” galaxies that orbit our own Milky Way galaxy. Because the galaxies are much more massive than they appear, based on the amount of light they emit, astronomers have realized that most of their matter must come from the mysterious dark matter that actually makes up most of the mass in the universe. One of the galaxies Geha recently discovered, called Segue 1, is the least-luminous, most dark-matter filled galaxies ever found.

“I am delighted to be selected for this year’s ‘Brilliant 10’,” Geha says. “This is an impressive group of researchers, and its an honor to be included along with them.”

— By Suzanne Taylor Muzzin

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Suzanne Taylor Muzzin:, 203-432-8555