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2024 Laboratory Astrophysics Prize

2024 LAD Laboratory Astrophysics Prize Goes to Randall Smith

The Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is awarding its 2023 Laboratory Astrophysics Prize to Dr. Randall Smith of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA). This prize is given to Dr. Smith in recognition of his contributions to the field of high-energy astrophysics.

The Laboratory Astrophysics Prize, LAD’s highest honor, is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time. For over 25 years, Dr. Smith has made significant contributions to X-ray astronomy, including the construction of the APEC code, a standard for modeling coronal plasmas, as well as the development of AtomDB, a database of atomic rates and wavelengths that provides the underpinnings of the APEC and a number of other plasma models. The publication describing APEC code has been cited over 1,500 times, and the APEC code is one of the most widely used tools in this field. Dr. Smith is a PI and a Co-I on a number of X-ray observatories, such as Arcus, Athena, XRISM, and Astro-H. In addition to leading and contributing to past, present, and future X-ray missions, Dr. Smith has also made significant contributions to studies of the interstellar medium as well as the field of accretion processes in compact objects from black holes and neutron stars to symbiotic stars.

Dr. Smith has been actively involved in professional community service for close to two decades, including serving the divisions of AAS in various capacities. Dr. Smith is presently the Chair of the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the AAS and the past Secretary of HEAD as well as the past Chair of LAD.

Dr. Smith received his undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), and Research Scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. In 2008 Dr. Smith returned to SAO, and since 2021, Dr. Smith has been the Associate Director of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of SAO. He is a member of the AAS, the American Physical Society, and the International Astronomical Union, and an Associate of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).

The LAD Career Prize includes a cash award, a framed certificate, and an invited lecture at the summer 2024 meeting of the Laboratory Astrophysics Division.

Murthy S. Gudipati
LAD Past Chair
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
+1 (818) 536-9028

Rachel L. Smith
LAD Secretary
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences /
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Appalachian State University
+1 (919) 707-8239

Randall Smith
Harvard & Smithsonian
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
+1 (617) 495-7143 


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, in collaboration with astronomical observations and other complementary fields.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.