Peter Mészáros Elected as a 2010 American Academy Fellow
Peter Mészáros, Holder of the Eberly Family Chair of Astronomy and Astrophysics and professor of physics, is among those elected as Fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for 2010. He is one of the 229 new Fellows and 19 Foreign Honorary Members in the sciences, the humanities and the arts, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector to be honored.
Mészáros is a theoretical astrophysicist whose research involves high-energy astrophysics, gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), cosmology, and neutron stars. He and his collaborators developed the cosmological-fireball-shock scenario — the most widely accepted interpretation of gamma-ray bursts. His predictions of the properties of burst afterglows at X-ray and optical wavelengths were confirmed by observations made in 1997 with the Beppo-SAX satellite. Since that time, more than 100 afterglows have been studied in detail, and an increasing number of new and precise afterglow detections, locations, and follow-up observations are being obtained with the Swift multi-wavelength GRB satellite.
In 2000, Mészáros was one of three astrophysicists awarded the Bruno Rossi Prize by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society for their pioneering work on gamma-ray bursts. Mészáros and his colleagues, Bohdan Paczynski of Princeton University and Sir Martin Rees of the Royal Observatories in England, were awarded the Rossi Prize for their development of theoretical models of gamma-ray bursts years before observational scientists had adequate tools to study the phenomena.
Among the national and international honors Mészáros has received for his research accomplishments are the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 1999, two Smithsonian Fellowships in 1982 and 1990, an International Research and Exchanges Board Fellowship in 1986, and a Royal Society Guest Fellowship in 1991. He also was co-recipient of the first prize of the Gravity Research Foundation in 1976.
Mészáros has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara, and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope board. He is a member of the Swift Science Team and the IceCube Antarctic Neutrino Detector project. He also is a member of the Institute for Gravitation and the Cosmos and the Center for Gravitational Wave Physics at Penn State. He has served on numerous committees of NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the American Astronomical Society. He also has served as the chair of the Nonthermal Gamma-Ray Sources Program and the Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays, Neutrinos, and Photons Program, both at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
Mészáros received his master's degree in physics from the National University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1967 and his doctoral degree in astronomy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1972. After appointments as a research associate at Princeton University and a research fellow at the University of Cambridge in England, he was a staff scientist at the Max-Planck Institute for Astrophysics from 1975 to 1983. He joined the Penn State faculty as an associate professor in 1983, was promoted to professor in 1987, and was named distinguished professor in 2000. He served as head of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics from 1993 to 2003.
“The men and women we elect today are true pathbreakers who have made unique contributions to their fields, and to the world,” said Academy Chair Louis W. Cabot. Established in 1780 by founders of the United States, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences current projects include studies of complex and emerging problems in areas including science, technology, and global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education. A complete list of the 2010 class of new members is online at: http://www.amacad.org/news/a2z10.pdf.