Women in STEM: Andrea Ghez
This fall, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced that Andrea Ghez had become the fourth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Along with Reinhard Genzel and Roger Penrose, she discovered a black hole in the Milky Way’s galactic center, making Andrea a great choice to be featured in our Women in STEM series for the month of December.
Andrea was recognized by the academy for her part in the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the center of our galaxy. According to the chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics, David Haviland, “The discoveries of this year’s Laureates have broken new ground.”
Andrea has always been shooting for the stars, earning a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her PhD in Physics from the California Institute of Technology. Currently, she’s a Professor of Astrophysics at UCLA, where School Chancellor Gene Block spoke of her great achievement:
“We are inspired by her research uncovering the secrets of our universe and its potential to help us better understand the cosmos.”
Ghez focused her research, which she calls “extreme astrophysics,” on the more than 3,000 stars orbiting a supermassive black hole in the middle of our galaxy, attempting to explain how its gravity can be so dense that nothing can avoid its pull, even light.
While acknowledging that Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity best describes how gravity works, Ghez says that eventually we’ll need to move toward a more comprehensive theory of gravity that explains exactly what a black hole is.
Upon winning the Nobel Prize in Physics, Andrea was both gracious and humble:
“Our understanding of how the universe works is still so incomplete. The Nobel Prize is fabulous, but we still have a lot to learn.”
For more from Andrea, listen to her Ted Talk, during which she discusses how she tracks the visible and invisible forces lurking in the vastness of interstellar space from 26,000 light-years away.
Making exciting new discoveries in the stars, Andrea is a great example of the kind of determination and leadership that Tynker loves and a true inspiration.
When we asked Andrea if she had anything that she wanted to say to the next generation of young girls interested in a STEM career, she said:
“Follow your passions!”
We can’t wait to see what Andrea discovers next!