Wolszczan to present Eberly Family Distinguished Lecture in Science

Alexander Wolszczan, Evan Pugh Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State, will present the Eberly Family Distinguished Lecture in Science at 4 p.m. on April 29, in the Auditorium at the HUB-Robeson Center on the University Park campus. This free public lecture, titled "In Search of Living Worlds," is sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

Wolszczan became the first person to discover planets outside our solar system in 1992, when he used the 1,000-foot Arecibo radio telescope to detect three planets orbiting a rapidly spinning neutron star. This discovery opened the door to the current era of planet hunting, and it catapulted the field of extrasolar-planet studies into the forefront of astrophysics. In August of 2007, Wolszczan announced the discovery of a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a red-giant star. The planet was the first to be discovered by Penn State astronomers with the Hobby-Eberly Telescope.

In 2010, Wolszczan was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2002, he was honored in Poland by having his likeness featured on a special set of postage stamps celebrating the past millennium. Also featured on the stamp was Nicolaus Copernicus -- considered by many to be the founder of modern astronomy. Among Wolszczan's many other honors are the 2001 Research Prize for Senior U.S. Scientists from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, the Beatrice M. Tinsley Award from the American Astronomical Society in 1996, the "Best of What's New" Grand Award from Popular Science magazine in 1994, a Penn State Faculty Scholar Medal for Outstanding Achievement in 1994, and an Annual Award from the Foundation for Polish Science in 1992.

Wolszczan is a corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, and a member of the American Astronomical Society, the International Astronomical Union, and the International Union of Radio Science. He also is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Innovation Foundation.

Wolszczan earned a doctoral degree in physics in 1975 and a master's degree in astronomy in 1969 at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland. He joined the Penn State faculty in 1992, became an Evan Pugh Professor in 1998, and the founding director of the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds in 2008.

The Eberly Family Distinguished Lecture series was inaugurated in 2001 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the renaming of the Eberly College of Science on 17 March 1990 in honor of one of its most generous benefactors, the Eberly Family of Uniontown, Pennsylvania. A 1986 commitment from the Eberly Family Charitable Trust created a $1 million endowed chair in each of the college's seven departments and provided funding for an endowed chair in science, an endowed professorship in biotechnology, and the Hobby-Eberly Telescope. That transforming gift has enabled the college to attract outstanding faculty members and students, and to enhance its missions of education, research, and service.

For more information about the lecture, contact Suzanne Grieb in Penn State's Eberly College of Science Office of Alumni Relations and Development at 814-863-4683 or sds6@psu.edu.

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Last Updated April 18, 2011