Astrophysicist Piero Madau awarded prestigious international research chair

Piero Madau

The government of the greater Paris region has appointed Piero Madau, distinguished professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, to an International Blaise Pascal Research Chair. The Pascal chairs are awarded annually to preeminent, internationally acclaimed scholars in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities to conduct research and deliver public lectures in the Paris region.

Named after the eminent 17th-century French mathematician, physicist and philosopher, the Blaise Pascal Chairs are administered by the Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS-Paris), France's most prestigious institution for the training of academics. Each chair holder's research project is sponsored by a Parisian academic institution; in Professor Madau's case it will be the Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris at the University Pierre et Marie Curie.

Madau is only the fourth astrophysicist to be appointed since these chairs were established in 1996. Previous laureates include Gerard Debreu (1983 Nobel Prize in Economics), Ahmed Zewail (1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry), George Smoot (2006 Nobel Prize in Physics), Elizabeth Blackburn (2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine), and Michael Levitt (2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry).

Madau was honored for his fundamental contributions to understanding the era of first light in the universe, the physics of the intergalactic medium, and the formation and evolution of galaxies. He will divide his time between Paris and Santa Cruz over the next two years, maintaining his teaching responsibilities at UC Santa Cruz throughout the term of his honorary designation. The Blaise Pascal Chair will enable Madau to continue his research project in computational astrophysics, "Connecting the Dark and Light Side of Galaxy Formation." This research is aimed at testing the nature of dark matter, an as yet undetected elementary particle that is weakly interacting and emits no light, and whose gravitational pull holds together galaxies such as our own Milky Way and clusters of galaxies.