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Breakthrough Prize winner Jocelyn Bell Burnell to present Science Achievement Graduate Fellows (SAGF) Lecture January 25

10 January 2019

Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, winner of the 2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, will present the spring 2019 Science Achievement Graduate Fellows (SAGF) Lecture at Penn State, on Friday, January 25, at 2 p.m. in Paterno Library's Foster Auditorium on the University Park campus. This free public lecture, titled “Discovery of Pulsars: A Graduate Student’s Story” is sponsored by the Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Eberly College of Science.

The lecture will focus on Bell Burnell’s accidental discovery of pulsars — pulsating stars that emit intense beams of radio waves — when she was a graduate student. She also will describe some previous occasions when pulsars were almost discovered. The discovery of pulsars has been described as "one of the biggest surprises in the history of astronomy, transforming neutron stars from science fiction to reality."

About the speaker

Jocelyn Bell BurnellSince the 1960s, Bell Burnell has actively taken strides in furthering the education and research of astronomy. She has served as president of the Royal Astronomical Society as well as the first female president of both the Institute of Physics and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Bell Burnell is currently a visiting professor of astrophysics at the University of Oxford, professorial fellow in physics at Mansfield College, Oxford, and chancellor of the University of Dundee. Among a number of prestigious awards and honors — including honorary degrees from 36 or more institutions — she received the Royal Astronomical Society's Herschel Medal in 1989 and, most recently, the $3 million 2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for her discovery of pulsars and for her inspiring decades of scientific leadership. Bell Burnell donated the entirety of her Breakthrough Prize “to fund women, underrepresented ethnic minorities, and refugee students to become physics researchers.”

About the SAGF Lectures

The Science Achievement Graduate Fellows (SAGF) Lectures feature distinguished speakers in science and mathematics and are an outreach of the SAGF scholarship program in the Eberly College of Science at Penn State.

Established in 2018, the SAGF scholarships are awarded annually to outstanding graduate students seeking a doctoral degree in each of the college's seven departments, and who are interested in the advancement of women in the sciences and related fields. The SAGF scholarships recognize women — an underrepresented group in the sciences and mathematics — who have a record of significant professional achievements in their field and who are role models for the students in the college. Each scholarship is named in honor of an outstanding woman scientist or mathematician who not only made groundbreaking discoveries but also blazed the trail for others who have followed in their footsteps. The program fellows host two distinguished lectures a year to honor the women scientists for whom the scholarships are named.