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2020 Dissertation Prize

2020 LAD Dissertation Prize Goes to Natalie Hell

Natalie HellThe Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is pleased to announce the recipient of its 2020 Dissertation Prize, given to an individual who has recently completed an outstanding theoretical or experimental doctoral dissertation in laboratory astrophysics. For 2020 the prize goes to Dr. Natalie Hell for her thesis Benchmarking Transition Energies and Emission Strengths for X-ray Astrophysics with Measurements at the Livermore EBITs. Dr. Hell earned her PhD at Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, where she worked at Dr. Karl Remeis Observatory in Bamberg as well as the Erlangen Centre for Astroparticle Physics (ECAP). She is now a staff physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

Dr. Hell is being cited “for groundbreaking laboratory measurements necessary for accurate, reliable interpretation of high-resolution X-ray spectra from astronomical sources.” Her research combines astrophysical observations, laboratory experiments, and theoretical calculations to reveal physical processes occurring throughout the cosmos. For her thesis she measured wavelengths and line strengths with Livermore’s electron beam ion traps (EBITs), then used them to interpret spectra from binary systems consisting of a black hole and a massive star, thereby revealing how interstellar gas clouds are influenced by radiation coming from around the black hole. Her work has been vital in understanding high-resolution X-ray spectra taken with the Chandra and XMM-Newton X-ray observatories and will be of similar importance to the forthcoming X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) and Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics (Athena).

The LAD Dissertation Prize includes a cash award, a framed certificate, and an invited lecture by the recipient at a meeting of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division.

Phillip Stancil
LAD Chair
University of Georgia
+1 (706) 542-2485

Randall Smith
LAD Past-Chair
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
+1 (617) 495-7143

Rachel L. Smith
LAD Secretary
NC Museum of Natural Sciences / Appalachian State University
+1 (919) 707-8239

Natalie Hell
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
+1 (925) 422-8509

The AAS Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD, advances our understanding of the universe through the promotion of fundamental theoretical and experimental research into the underlying processes that drive the cosmos.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS,, established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.