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Four AAAS Fellows awarded 2016 Kavli Prizes

Four AAAS Fellows, Kip S. Thorne, Rainer Weiss, Eve Marder and Carla Shatz were among nine scientists awarded Kavli Prizes in 2016. The prizes “recognize scientists for pioneering advances in our understanding of existence at its biggest, smallest, and most complex scales,” states the website. The awards are presented every two years in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.

Thorne and Weiss along with experimental physicist Ronald W.P. Drever, were the recipients of the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics, “for the direct detection of gravitational waves” using the the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO). On September 14, 2015, LIGO registered a pulse of gravitational radiation emitted by the inspiralling and coalescence of two black holes. This detection validated Einstein’s theory of general relativity for very strong fields, established the nature of gravitational waves, and demonstrated the existence of black holes with masses 30 times that of our sun. Learn more about the prize



Top, left to right: Kip S. Thorne and Rainer Weiss. Bottom, left to right: Eve Marder and Carla Shatz | © Caltech/© Courtesy of Les Guthman/© eLife Sciences Publications/© Steve Fisch

Thorne is theoretical physicist who up until 2009 was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He is best known for his “research in gravitation and astrophysics, including having predicted the existence of a type of red supergiant star with a neutron star core, and using general relativity to describe how black holes move and precess,” according to his Kavli bio.

Weiss is s a professor of physics emeritus at MIT. “Weiss has contributed to a variety of scientific fields, including atomic physics, laser physics and astronomy. As part of the latter, he measured the spectrum of the very faint but ubiquitous radiation known as the cosmic microwave background, and was one of the founders of NASA’s COBE cosmic microwave mission,” according to his Kavli bio.

Marder and Shatz along with Michael Merzenich, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, were the recipients of the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience, “for the discovery of mechanisms that allow experience and neural activity to remodel brain function.” Their discoveries showed how neuronal activity, generated either by experience or by intrinsic brain function, actively sculpts structural and functional connections between nerve cells. At the same time, essential stability is provided by self-regulating mechanisms that drive nerve cells to produce consistent patterns of activity. Learn more about the prize

Marder is a neuroscientist at Brandeis University. Marder "has pioneered understanding of how a neural circuit can generate the necessary rhythmic firing patterns that control rhythmic muscle movements such as breathing, walking, and passage of food through the gut," according to her Kavli bio.

Shatz is professor of neurobiology and of biology at Stanford University. Shatz has spent her career "focusing on understanding the changes that take place during the development of the brain, particularly the region that receives information from the eyes. This work has had implications for understanding learning and in neurodegenerative disease," according to a Standford news annoucement.

Physicists Gerd Binnig, Christoph Gerber and Calvin Quate share the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience “for the invention and realization of atomic force microscopy, a breakthrough in measurement technology and nanosculpting that continues to have a transformative impact on nanoscience and technology.” Learn more about the prize and it winners

Each prize comes with $1 million. The laureates are chosen by committees whose members are recommended by six of the world’s most renowned science societies and academies.

Congratulations to all of this year’s laureates!