Penn State astronomers ranked high in scientific impact

University Park, Pa. — Penn State astronomers Peter Meszaros and Donald Schneider are among the scientists whose research has the most scientific impact worldwide, according to ScienceWatch, an organization that monitors performance in basic research.

Meszaros, holder of the Eberly Family Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics and a professor of physics, was ranked recently as the most highly-cited scientist in the field of gamma-ray-burst astronomy throughout the past decade. Schneider, distinguished professor of astronomy and astrophysics, was cited as among the 13 scientists in all scientific disciplines who have the largest number of high-impact papers from 2007 to 2008. Transcripts of Science Watch interviews with Meszaros and Schneider are on the Web at http://sciencewatch.com/ana/st/gamma/09junGamMesz/ and http://sciencewatch.com/inter/aut/2009/09-jul/09julSchn/. Photos of Meszaros and Schneider are on the Web at http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/MeszarosSchneider7-2009.htm.

Meszaros is known for his seminal work in developing, with Martin Rees of Cambridge University, the model that explained gamma-ray bursts as titanic cosmic explosions. Meszaros, who won the American Astronomical Society's Rossi Prize in High Energy Astrophysics in 2000, is extensively involved with the Swift satellite, whose Mission Operations Center is run by Penn State. The Swift satellite was launched in 2004 and has detected hundreds of gamma-ray bursts, resulting in a breathtaking number of discoveries about our universe. "This field of study has really blossomed in the past two decades," said Meszaros. "When I arrived at Penn State in 1983, our understanding of gamma-ray bursts was so limited that they could have been located anywhere between the outer solar system to the most distant reaches of the universe. Now we frequently measure the energies and distances from Earth of individual bursts. One burst was so bright that, although it was several billion light years distant, it was visible to the naked eye for a minute."

Schneider has devoted much of his research effort for the past twenty years to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), a multi-institutional project to map a large fraction of the sky. Schneider is the leader of SDSS quasar science research, which to date has identified over 100,000 quasars, although fewer than 10,000 were known when the project began making observations. The SDSS project's quasar research has resulted in a series of discoveries that repeatedly have broken the record for the most distant object yet discovered.

Department Head Lawrence Ramsey noted that he was pleased but not surprised by Science Watch's announcements. "We expect our faculty to be internationally recognized leaders in their fields, and professors Meszaros and Schneider are among those in the department whose research achievements are at this high level," he said.

Contact Meszaros at (814) 864-4167, or by e-mail at nnp@astro.psu.edu; contact Schneider at (814) 863-9554 or at dps@astro.psu.edu.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010