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Wolszczan Receives Gold Medal Award for Achievements in Science

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Alexander Wolszczan, Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, has been awarded the Gold Medal Award by the American Institute of Polish Culture, headquartered in Miami, Florida.

Wolszczan was chosen for this year's award because "his great accomplishment in discovering the first planets outside our solar system well deserves this recognition," states Blanka A. Rosenstiel, president of the institute.  "Wolszczan's discovery and leading role as a source of insight on new astronomical findings are a continuation of the path in astronomy and astrophysics paved by Polish astronomer Mikolaj Kopernik five centuries ago," Blanka adds.

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.  His discovery, which suggested that planets might be plentiful throughout the universe, opened the door to the current intense era of planet hunting.  He currently is one of the leaders in the effort to discover extrasolar planets.

Wolszczan was awarded the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit Award from the president of Poland in 1997, 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 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.  He was named distinguished professor in 1995 and was named Evan Pugh Professor of astronomy and astrophysics in 1998.

The American Institute of Polish Culture was established in 1972 as a public benefit organization to share with American society the rich heritage of Poland and to establish a center of educational facilities and resources for the encouragement and promotion of the scientific and aesthetic endeavors of Americans of Polish descent.

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