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Wen-fai Fong named ‘Rising Star’ by Astronomy Magazine

Honor recognizes 25 distinguished early career astronomers

Astronomy Magazine named Northwestern University astrophysicist Wen-fai Fong to its list of “Rising Stars in Astronomy,” an honor recognizing 25 early career astronomers who have already made significant impacts in the field.

Fong was cited for her work to better understand the universe’s fastest explosions, known as transients, which include short gamma-ray bursts (SGRBs) and fast radio bursts (FRBs). These enigmatic events flare up quickly and then disappear within seconds or even fractions of a second. Fong’s research group seeks to understand what powers these events, what types of host galaxy environments give rise to them and uncover the nature and composition of material ejected from the explosions.

When Fong entered the field, the origins of SGRBs were uncertain. Now, thanks in part to her research, astronomers suspect SGRBs might be generated by colliding neutron stars or black holes.

“I am honored to be among this international group of talented scientists,” Fong said. “This honor gives me a chance to reflect upon my career thus far. It has been thrilling to interact with the universe as it changes on timescales relevant to humans (hours to days) and make new discoveries. It is particularly heart-warming for me to pass excitement on to the next generation of students and for them to see the universe in fresh ways and make their own discoveries.”

Fong is an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astronomy (CIERA).

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