Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin Doctoral Dissertation Award in Astrophysics

This award recognizes doctoral thesis in research in astrophysics, and encourages effective written and oral presentation of research results. The annual award consists of $1,500 for the recipient, a certificate, registration waiver, and all finalists will receive a travel reimbursement up to $750 in order to present their work in an invited session at the APS April Meeting.

Establishment & Support

The award was established in 2013 by the Division of Astrophysics (DAP) as the Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award in Astrophysics. In 2018 it was renamed for Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, and generously endowed by the Heising-Simons Foundation.

Rules & Eligibility

Doctoral students at any university in the United States or abroad who have passed their thesis defense for the Ph.D. any time during the two calendar years prior to the year of the APS April Meeting where the award is made (for example, for the 2019 award, anyone who defended in 2017 or 2018 is eligible), and whose thesis topic is appropriate for DAP (i.e. dealing with topics that are typically presented in DAP sponsored or co-sponsored sessions at the APS April Meeting), and who are members of the DAP are eligible for the award.  A student may be a finalist in the competition only once, but eligible non-finalists may be re-nominated. In this case a new nomination package must be submitted.

Nominations and selection of finalists will be made during the nomination submission year, after the deadline; the selection and announcement of the winner will be made at the following APS April Meeting. 

Nomination & Selection Process

Deadline: Thursday, November 30, 2023

Preceding the established nomination deadline, the April Meeting is where the award will be made. The thesis advisor initiates the nomination process, and the nominator must be a DAP member.

The nomination packet consists of the following materials:

  1. APS Prizes and Awards nomination form (nominee’s contact information, thesis date)
  2. A CV, including a list of publications.
  3. A letter from the thesis advisor citing the specific contributions of the nominee and the significance of those contributions.
  4. At most two letters seconding the nomination.
  5. A letter from the department chair certifying the date of the thesis defense. If this letter goes beyond verifying the defense date it must be counted as one of the two seconding letters.
  6. A manuscript prepared by the nominee describing the thesis research; the manuscript may not exceed 1,500 words (excluding references) and a maximum of 6 figures.
  7. An abstract prepared by the nominee suitable for publication in the APS April Meeting Bulletin.

The name of the thesis supervisor and the institution should be indicated in a footnote. The finalists will be chosen by the Thesis Award Selection Committee based on the quality of the thesis research and the written presentation. Selection Committee members who have mentored or otherwise co-authored with any candidate will recuse themselves from selection of finalists or awardees as appropriate. The three finalists will present their work at a special Thesis Award Session of the April Meeting. After consideration of the oral presentation, the Selection Committee will choose the recipient of the award. The winner will be announced at the DAP business meeting. Nominees who are not selected as finalists may submit abstracts for regular oral or poster presentation at the meeting.

To start a new or update a continuing nomination, please see the Prize & Award Nomination Guidelines.

2024 Selection Committee Members: Alessandra Corsi (Chair), Kerstin Perez, Javier Garcia, Michela Negro

2024 Finalists: Andrea Biscoveanu, Floor Broekgaarden, Justin Myles

The membership of APS is diverse and global, and the nominees and recipients of APS Honors should reflect that diversity so that all are recognized for their impact on our community. Nominations of members belonging to groups traditionally underrepresented in physics, such as women, LGBT+ scientists, scientists who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), disabled scientists, scientists from institutions with limited resources, and scientists from outside the United States, are especially encouraged.

Nominees for and holders of APS Honors (prizes, awards, and fellowship) and official leadership positions are expected to meet standards of professional conduct and integrity as described in the APS Ethics Guidelines. Violations of these standards may disqualify people from consideration or lead to revocation of honors or removal from office.

2023 Recipient

Kaeli Hughes
Pennsylvania State University

Past Recipients

2022: Nolan Matthews
2021: Shany Danieli
2020: Nicholas Llewellyn Rodd
2019: Siyao Xu
2018: Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez
2017: Garrett Somers
2016: Wen-fai Fong
2015: Anne Archibald