Astrophysicist Wen-fai Fong will receive the 2024 Lancelot M. Berkeley–New York Community Trust Prize for Meritorious Work in Astronomy. Bestowed annually since 2011 by the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and supported by a grant from The New York Community Trust, the Berkeley prize includes a monetary award and an invitation to give the closing plenary lecture at the AAS winter meeting. The 243rd AAS meeting will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 7 to 11 January 2024.
Wen-fai Fong (Northwestern University) is being honored with the 2024 Berkeley prize for her leadership of foundational work that is greatly advancing our understanding of explosive astrophysical transients and their host galaxies. These transients include short gamma-ray bursts, which are powerful flashes first seen as high-energy light; fast radio bursts, which are brief flashes of radio emission; and electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational-wave signals.
Fong partners with her research group at Northwestern’s Department of Physics and Astronomy as well as the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). The Fong Group uses observations spanning the electromagnetic spectrum to unveil the origins of these powerful transients, putting the pieces together from different wavelengths to tease out their properties to ultimately understand the physics behind them and their uses as probes of the otherwise unseen universe. Fong is also co-leader of the Fast and Fortunate Fast Radio Burst Collaboration (F4), an international collaboration that follows fast radio bursts and their host galaxies, as well as co-founder and co-PI of the Searches After Gravitational Waves Using Arizona Observatories (SAGUARO) Collaboration, a specialized network of telescopes that searches for and identifies optical light from gravitational-wave events.