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Villanova University Physicist, Student Part of Team to Win Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for Black Hole Observation

$3 million prize to be shared amongst 347-member Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration Team

Breakthrough Prize winners

VILLANOVA, Pa. — Villanova University Assistant Professor of Physics, Joey Neilsen, PhD, and his student Jadyn Anczarski, ’20 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who were a part of the team to capture the first image of a black hole earlier this year, have won the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the work. The $3 million prize will be split among the 347 authors of the original papers by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration. The Breakthrough Prize, known as the “Oscars of Science,” annually recognizes achievements in the Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics, disciplines that ask the biggest questions and seek the deepest explanations.

"We were thrilled to be a part of this groundbreaking work,” says Neilsen. “It was so exciting to see the black hole’s shadow for the first time, and to count ourselves among the prizewinners is a wonderful surprise.”

“It was a real honor to work on this project as an undergraduate student,” says Anczarski. “I am very thankful to Dr. Neilsen for the opportunity, and to the collaboration for sharing the award."

Neilsen and Anczarski contributed analyses of X-ray observations on behalf of the EHT’s Multiwavelength Working Group.

“X-ray observations help connect the dots between high energy emission and the behavior of matter near the event horizon,” Neilsen said at the time of the announcement in April.

Winners will be recognized at the eighth annual Breakthrough Prize gala awards ceremony on Sunday, November 3, at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., and broadcast live on National Geographic.

About the Breakthrough Prize: For the eighth year and renown as the “Oscars of Science,” the Breakthrough Prize will recognize the world’s top scientists. Each prize is $3 million and presented in the fields of Life Sciences (up to four per year), Fundamental Physics (one per year) and Mathematics (one per year). In addition, up to three New Horizons in Physics and up to three New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes are given out to junior researchers each year. Laureates attend a live televised award ceremony designed to celebrate their achievements and inspire the next generation of scientists. As part of the ceremony schedule, they also engage in a program of lectures and discussions.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit