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Wolszczan Receives Humboldt Award

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27 March 2002 -- Alexander Wolszczan, Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, has received the Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientists from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany.

The award includes a monetary grant and support for research at German universities of the recipient's choice for a period of one year.

Wolszczan became the first person to discover planets outside our solar system in 1992, when he used the 1,000-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.

That distinction, plus the breadth and depth of his accomplishments, recently led to his being honored by the country of Poland in having his likeness featured on a special set of 16 postage stamps celebrating the past millennium. Also featured on the stamp with Wolszczan are Nicolaus Copernicus, considered by many to be the founder of modern astronomy, and the Arecibo radiotelescope, which Wolszczan used in his discovery of the planets.

Among Wolszczan's previous honors is the Marian Smoluchowski Medal -- the highest prize of the Polish Physical Society, awarded in 2001. Previously, he was presented with the Gold Medal Award of the American Institute of Polish Culture in 2000, 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 in 1996, and the Beatrice M. Tinsley Award from the American Astronomical Society in 1996. He also received 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 was named an Evan Pugh Professor in 1998, the highest distinction Penn State can bestow upon a faculty member.

The Humboldt Foundation presents up to 150 Research Awards annually to "foreign scholars whose academic qualifications enjoy international recognition. The object is to pay tribute to academic accomplishments of award winners and to foster long-term cooperation between foreign and German researchers."

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