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Wolszczan Receives the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit Award

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Alexander Wolszczan, distinguished professor of astronomy and astrophysics, has received the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit Award from the president of Poland. This award was established in 1921 and is one of the three top awards granted by the president for extraordinary achievements in service to the country and to society. Wolszczan received the award for his "distinguished contribution to the development of Polish science."

In 1992, Wolszczan became the first person to discover planets outside our solar system when he used the 1000-foot Arecibo radiotelescope to detect three planets orbiting a rapidly spinning neutron star. He currently is one of the leaders in the effort to discover extrasolar planets.

Wolszczan received both the Casimir Funk Natural Sciences Award from the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in America and the Beatrice M. Tinsley award from the American Astronomical Society in 1996, the Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 1994, the Popular Science Grand Award for "Best of What's New" in 1994, the Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation award in 1993, and the Annual Award of the Foundation for Polish Science in 1992.

Wolszczan received a master's degree in astronomy in 1969 and a doctoral degree in physics in 1975 from the Nicholas Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. He held faculty positions there until 1979, when he joined the Polish Academy of Science as associate professor at the Copernicus Astronomical Center. In 1983, he joined the research staff of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. He was a visiting professor at Princeton University before joining the Penn State faculty as professor of astronomy and astrophysics in the fall of 1992.

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