The Rossi Prize recognizes Kouveliotou’s research and scientific observations to confirm the existence of magnetars, neutron stars with extraordinarily strong magnetic fields, and the Descartes Prize recognizes her contributions to the study of powerful explosions known as gamma ray bursts.
“Winning these awards is wonderful because it provides stimuli to propel the research further — hopefully toward many more discoveries,” said Kouveliotou, a senior research scientist with the Universities Space Research Association in Huntsville. Kouveliotou is a member of the Space Science group at the National Space Science and Technology Center, a partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama universities, industry, research institutes and federal agencies.
Awarded by the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society, the Rossi Prize recognizes significant contributions to high-energy astrophysics, emphasizing recent, original work. It is named for the late Dr. Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic rays and physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Kouveliotou shares the 2003 Bruno Rossi Prize with Drs. Robert Duncan of the University of Texas, at Austin, and Christopher Thompson, of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, in Toronto. Duncan and Thompson were cited for their prediction of magnetars, neutrons stars with extraordinarily strong magnetic fields, and Kouveliotou was cited for her observational confirmation of the existence of these objects.
The Descartes Prize, also known as the European Science Award, recognizes scientific breakthroughs from European collaborative research in any scientific field. This marks the first time the Descartes Prize — named for Rene Descartes, a mathematician, natural scientist and philosopher — honors research in astrophysics.
Kouveliotou is the only U.S. team member who shares the Descartes Prize with Dr. Edward van den Heuvel of the University of Amsterdam and a team of scientists from the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The group earned the award for its research on gamma-ray bursts – the most powerful explosions in the universe, second only to the Big Bang. The team discovered that the gamma-ray bursts occur in distant galaxies at the very edge of the Universe, which means their peak energy output is roughly 1 billion times the output of our Sun. Their research provides new insight into star formation rates and mechanisms.
Kouveliotou, who joined the Marshall Center in 2000 on special assignment from the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) based in Columbia, Md., has directed the USRA Astronomy Program in Huntsville since 1998. Since 1995, she also has served as deputy director of the Institute for Space Physics, Astronomy and Education – a joint research venture of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Universities Space Research Association.
Her prior experience includes 12 years of teaching at the University of Athens, Greece, and two years as a visiting scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “Being part of these research teams and working at Marshall with the Burst And Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) team since 1991 has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life,” said Kouveliotou.
A native of Athens, Greece, Kouveliotou has a bachelor’s degree in physics from the National University of Athens, master’s and doctorate degrees in Astrophysics from the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, and the Technical University of Munich, respectively.
Her husband Johannes van Paradijs, the award-winning astrophysicist and gamma ray astronomer was crucial to pinning down the source of gamma ray bursts, died in Amsterdam after an extended illness.
Jan van Paradijs was one of the greatest astronomers of his generation and one of greatest Netherlands astronomers of all time. During his short life he had a staggering scientific productivity. He published over 400 scientific papers of which 33 in the journal Nature - ten of them just in the last three years of his life. But it is, of course, not the number that counts but the quality. As described above, he made many discoveries which meant major breakthroughs in the field. Together with Walter Lewin he published over the years, since 1977, over 120 papers and with Chryssa Kouveliotou in just the last six years of his life some 90 papers. The greatest discoveries of his life he made in collaboration with her. It is my conviction that these discoveries of his would not have happened if he had not met Chryssa. He would have been continuing to do outstanding work in the field of studies of accreting compact objects and related objects such as the binary radio pulsars. The meeting of Jan and Chryssa in 1990 led, however, to the tremendous synergy to which we thank the breakthroughs in the field of Gamma Ray Burst research, for which the names of Jan van Paradijs and Chryssa Kouveliotou will forever be remembered.
Edward P.J. van den Heuvel, The Scientific Life and Work of Jan van Paradijs
Known internationally for her work in astrophysics, Kouveliotou is active in professional societies including the American, European and Hellenic Astronomical Societies and the Royal Astronomical Society of England. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.
The most cited researchers in Space Science