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Reshaping the Galaxy—Alumna Named Scientist of the Year

The 2006 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year was recently awarded to Naomi McClure-Griffiths ’97, whose research has dramatically reshaped scientists’ knowledge of the structure and evolution of our galaxy. According to the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training “astronomers are redrawing the map of the galaxy” as a result of her work.

A senior post-doctoral fellow at the Australia Telescope National Facility, McClure-Griffiths’ studies of the Milky Way over the past 10 years have already led to the discovery of a new spiral arm, and changed many long-held ideas about the evolution of our galaxy.

Recognized internationally as an expert on the Milky Way, McClure-Griffiths credits Dan Stinebring, Oberlin’s Francis D. Federighi Professor of Physics and Astronomy, with inspiring her to become an astronomer. “Dan gave me one of those amazing opportunities that completely change the course of one’s life,” said McClure-Griffiths. “He gave me the opportunity to become involved in research, to travel to Australia, and to make my own observations. If it hadn’t been for Dan’s enthusiasm and support I would not be where I am today.”

The McIntosh Prize is presented by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Science and Training to a scientist age 35 or younger in recognition of outstanding achievement in science that advances, or has the potential to advance, human welfare or benefits society. Besides recognizing and rewarding outstanding research by younger scientists, an objective of the prize, which includes a grant of $50,000 and a silver medallion, is to demonstrate to the public and to students—and science undergraduates in particular—that early-stage career achievement in science can be of world-class importance

As principal investigator on the Galactic All Sky Survey, McClure-Griffiths leads a team that is creating the most sensitive and highest resolution all-sky atlas of hydrogen. Despite offers of prestigious fellowships to return to the U.S., McClure-Griffiths plans to stay in Australia, and hopes one day to use the proposed Square Kilometre Array telescope, which will be the world’s largest and most powerful radio telescope, to compare our galaxy with other galaxies.

Related Links
Australia Telescope Outreach and Education
CSIRO astronomer wins Malcolm McIntosh Prize
Naomi Mcclure-Griffiths' Homepage

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