Max Planck Humboldt Research Award for Prof Catherine Heymans

The award, which is worth €1.5 million, is financed by funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and awarded jointly by the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. It focuses on individuals whose work is characterized by outstanding future potential.

Astrophysicist Catherine Heymans has been researching Dark Energy for many years. Nearly three quarters of the universe is thought to be made up of this mysterious entity, which causes the Universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate. Like Dark Matter (which comprises about one quarter of the universe) an understanding of the origin of Dark Energy remains elusive. 

By observing far distant celestial objects, Catherine wants to find out whether Einstein’s theory of gravitation has to be expanded in order to explain certain phenomena. She is the author of the book ‘The Dark Universe’ and co-author of more than 140 scientific publications.

She will use the prize money to set up a team at the Argelander-Institute for Astronomy (AlfA) in Bonn, working with Peter Schneider from the AlfA who nominated her for the 2018 award. Heymans and Schneider have developed a concept for a new kind of German Centre of Cosmological Lensing (GCCL) at the University of Bonn, which will also involve researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and the University of Heidelberg.

Catherine commented:

I am looking forward to a much closer cooperation with my colleagues at the University of Bonn and other institutions in Germany thanks to the Max Planck- Humboldt Research Award.

After studying Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Edinburgh, Catherine completed her doctorate at Oxford. She then researched at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, at the University of British Columbia (Canada) and at the Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris. Catherine has worked at the University of Edinburgh since 2008, where she became a professor in 2016. She has won many awards, including a starting grant from the European Research Council (ERC), an ERC Consolidator Grant as well as the George Darwin Lectureship from the Royal Astronomical Society.