UC Berkeley News


Filippenko the latest Cal figure to receive high AAPT honor

| 17 January 2007

Alex Filippenko (Peg Skorpinski)

Astronomy professor Alex Filippenko, a world-renowned expert on exploding stars, black holes, galaxies, and cosmology, was presented with the prestigious Richtmyer Memorial Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) at its annual meeting in Seattle on Jan. 9.

The award announcement cited Filippenko's commitment to and achievements in astronomy education, as well as his groundbreaking research in observational cosmology. After receiving the award he delivered a plenary lecture, "Evidence from Type Ia supernovae for an accelerating universe and dark energy."

Established in 1941, the Richtmyer Memorial Lecture is named for Floyd K. Richtmyer, a distinguished physicist, teacher, and administrator who had a wide influence on the development of physics in the United States. Previous award winners with a Berkeley connection include Chancellor Robert Birgeneau (1989); Steven Chu (1990), director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Berkeley professor of physics, and a physics Nobelist; and physicists Charles Townes (1959), Carlos Bustamante (2005), Emilio Segrč (1957), and J. Robert Oppenheimer (1947).

"I am deeply honored to receive the Richtmyer Award," Filippenko said. "It recognizes the importance of the discovery of dark energy and the accelerating expansion of the universe, as well as my extensive efforts to educate the general public about this unexpected result and other breakthroughs in astrophysics."

Filippenko has won acclaim for his work using supernovae as cosmic mile-markers to demonstrate not only that the universe is expanding but that this expansion is currently accelerating. This discovery by the High-z Supernova Search Team and by the Supernova Cosmology Project was named "Top Science Breakthrough of 1998" by Science magazine. Filippenko was a member of both teams when the research was conducted.

One of the world's most highly cited astronomers, Filippenko has co-authored about 500 publications. He has won numerous awards for his research, including the Pierce Prize of the American Astronomical Society, the Canadian Astronomical Society's Petrie Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Just two months ago he received the national Professor of the Year Award for doctoral and research universities, which is sponsored by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and administered by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In 2004 he received the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

A recipient of Berkeley's two most coveted teaching awards - the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Donald Sterling Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching - Filippenko is co-author of the introductory astronomy textbook The Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium, now in its third edition. He has also taped several video lecture courses on astronomy for the Teaching Company.

Filippenko received his B.A. in physics from UC Santa Barbara in 1979 and his Ph.D. in astronomy from Caltech in 1984. He then became a Miller Research Fellow at Berkeley, joining the faculty here in 1986. He has been the primary adviser for about two dozen graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, as well as for more than 60 undergraduate research students.