10 August 2009

A researcher from The University of Queensland has been awarded the Astronomical Society of Australia‘s 2009 Louise Webster Prize.

Dr Tamara Davis from the School of Mathematics and Physics has received the award for her work on a paper that is helping scientists hone the direction for future research into the reasons the expansion of the Universe is accelerating.

Since the late 1990s, scientists have realised that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, not slowing down as previously thought, but conventional physics cannot explain why.

Dr Davis focused her research on understanding a dark energy, also known as anti-gravity, which is believed to dominate the Universe and be responsible for the acceleration.

In the process, she was able to rule out two of the leading alternative theories of gravity and give scientists a refined focus for future research, centered on how the universe works at the most fundamental level. These are the same kind of theories as those being tested at the enormous particle accelerator in Cern, the Large Hadron Collider (the LHC).

The paper already has 227 (159 refereed) citations, and is one of the top ten most highly cited astronomy papers of 2007.

Dr Davis is no stranger to being author on highly cited papers with another paper currently ranked 5th (354 citations) on which she is a co-author.

The Louise Webster Prize is awarded to an Australian early career researcher who has completed a PhD in the previous five years and has taken a lead role in producing a paper with a major scientific impact.

The prize consists of a medal, an award of $1,000 and ASA membership for the following calendar year.

Media: Lynelle Ross (l.ross@smp.uq.edu.au, 07 3346 9935).