Brian Metzger wins 2020 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists

Living Reviews author recognized for his research on Kilonovae

22 July 2020

The Blavatnik Family Foundation and the New York Academy of Sciences announced today a molecular biophysicist, an organic chemist and an astrophysicist as the Laureates of the 2020 Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists. Each will receive $250,000, the largest unrestricted scientific prize offered to America’s most-promising, young faculty-level scientific researchers.

2020 Blavatnik National Awards Laureate in Physical Sciences & Engineering

Brian Metzger, PhD, Professor of physics, Columbia University

Brian Metzger has settled a long-standing question about the origin of gold and other heavy elements in the universe. He predicted that gold, along with all the stable elements on the lower part of the periodic table, was created in a collision of two merging neutron stars called a “kilonova.” 

Metzger, B.D. Kilonovae. Living Rev Relativ 23, 1 (2020).

In 2017, the LIGO gravitational wave observatory recorded the first observed kilonova explosion, and measurements taken after this discovery confirmed Metzger’s predictions. Indeed, the heaviest elements present in the universe, like gold, were created by such cataclysmic events. Metzger’s work has ushered in an exciting new era in astronomy that will revolutionize our understanding of the cosmos. “This year, the Physical Sciences & Engineering Jury chose a superstar in the field of astrophysics,” said Nicholas B. Suntzeff, PhD, Distinguished Professor of the Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, and member of the 2020 Blavatnik National Awards Physical Sciences & Engineering Jury. “Brian Metzger has made multiple and profound theoretical predictions that have proven to be true, something that is rare in the field of astronomy. One of those predictions—how gold was made—is an everyday question that children might ask, but to which a true scientific answer had remained elusive.”