Indiana University

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Last modified: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Black hole expert, science diversity proponent visits tomorrow

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March 10, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- One of the world's leading female scientists will speak about black holes tomorrow during a joint colloquium of the Indiana University Physics and Astronomy departments.

Meg Urry, the Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Yale University, will present her thoughts on "Supermassive black holes and galaxy evolution," during a 4 p.m. presentation in Room 119 of Swain West. A tea at 3:30 p.m. in Swain West 113 will precede the presentation.

Urry, the first-ever female tenured faculty member in physics at Yale went on to become the university's first woman chair in physics in 2007. In addition to her internationally recognized research on supermassive black holes, Urry has also gained notoriety for her efforts to increase the number of women and minorities in the physical sciences.

"Meg Urry is a leading expert in the world on black holes in galaxies, and through her work we've learned about the roles black holes play in the origin and evolution of galaxies," said IU Astronomy Department Chair Caty Pilachowski. "In addition to her research, professor Urry is a leading advocate for diversity in science. Her efforts have raised the consciousness of astronomers everywhere about the issues that affect the participation of women and minorities in our field."

Only about seven percent of all physics faculty and about 12 percent of all astronomy faculty are female, Urry has pointed out during her efforts to promote diversity in the physical sciences.

In 1992 and 2003 she organized national meetings on women in astronomy and in 2002, in Paris ,she led the U.S. delegation to the first international meeting on Women in Physics. Urry also has been involved with the Women Faculty Forum mentoring program at Yale and in introducing science to young people in the New Haven area through her participation in the Science Saturdays program.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics at Tufts University, she earned master's and doctoral degrees in physics and astronomy from The Johns Hopkins University, the latter for X-ray and ultraviolet studies done at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. After a postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she moved to the Space Telescope Science Institute, which runs the Hubble Telescope for NASA. She became a tenured member of the senior scientific staff there and headed the STScI Science Program Selection Office, which reviews proposals for using the Hubble.

The principal investigator on more than 60 approved proposals for space observations, Urry has authored 140 publications in refereed journals and 29 book chapters and invited reviews. She won the Annie Jump Cannon award of the American Astronomical Society in 1990 and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1998. She is a member of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academy of Science's National Research Council (NRC) and the American Astronomical Society's Committee on Public Policy, and a recent member of the NRC Space Studies Board and the NASA Space Science Advisory Committee. She co-chairs the NRC's Committee on Astronomy and Astrophysics and has advised NASA on Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, RXTE, ASCA and other space observatories.

To speak with Pilachowski, please contact Steve Chaplin, University Communications, at 812-856-1896, or

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