Baumgarte Wins International Research Prize from Germany's Humboldt Foundation

Story posted March 29, 2012

Professor of Physics Thomas Baumgarte has won a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel research prize from Germany’s Humboldt Foundation, which supports international scholars in all fields to carry out research in Germany, and for German scholars to go abroad.

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Thomas Baumgarte

Baumgarte says the award will help support his sabbatical and will spend the next academic year at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, not far from Munich.

"I'll be working with colleagues there on problems in relativistic astrophysics," says Baumgarte.

"Specifically, we are hoping that we can develop new computer codes that will help us better understand what happens when a neutron star and a black hole orbit about each other in a binary. When the separation between the two gets too small, the neutron star can be torn apart by the strong tides created by the black hole — kind of like the Moon's tides here on Earth, just a lot stronger. We'd like to understand better what kind of radiation is emitted in this process, and how we could observe this radiation either with current or future observatories."

To be eligible for the Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award, scientists and scholars who are internationally renowned in their field must have completed their doctorates within the last 18 years, and are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements that will have a seminal influence on their discipline beyond their immediate field of work.

Winners are honored for their outstanding research record and invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany.

"Being in Munich for a year will be an adventure for the whole family, but for me it will also be a homecoming of sorts, since I was a student in Munich and at the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics 20 years ago," Baumgarte says.

The Humboldt Foundation grants up to 25 Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Awards each year.

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