Simons Foundation awards UC Berkeley professor $500,000 grant

UC Berkeley astronomy professor Eliot Quataert will receive a $500,000 grant from the Simons Foundation.
Gracie Malley/Staff
UC Berkeley astronomy professor Eliot Quataert will receive a $500,000 grant from the Simons Foundation.

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A UC Berkeley professor of astronomy and physics will receive a $500,000 open-ended grant from the Simons Foundation to further his research, the campus announced Tuesday.

Eliot Quataert is a theoretical astrophysicist with interests in black holes, stellar physics, plasma astrophysics and galaxy formation, among other topics, and is the director of the UC Berkeley Theoretical Astrophysics Center. The grant will provide Quataert with $100,000 per year for five years beginning this year, and following a review after that period of time, he may receive $100,000 per year for an additional five years.

“(The grant) is fantastic,” said Josh Burkart, a graduate student currently working with Quataert.  “(Quataert) is a really fantastic teacher and adviser.”

The Simons Foundation also gave a $60 million grant to the campus in May to establish a theoretical computing center on campus, which will begin operations in 2013.

“I was extremely surprised since it was not something I applied for, then I was really excited,” Quataert said. “I’ll have the opportunity to work on whatever comes to mind.”

Quataert said he plans to use the grant money to come up with and answer questions regarding stars, galaxies, black holes and other structures in the universe he studies.

In addition to providing money for research, the Simons Foundation — whose mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences — provides money for computing equipment and also for supporting graduate students in their research, which Quataert said he will use the money for as well.

“Usually you have a very specific set of questions to answer,” Quataert said.  “(The Simons Foundation) understands the randomness of research.”

Quataert is most excited about the flexibility the grant provides because it will allow him to explore and determine what the most interesting questions in his field are.

“I think that this kind of flexibility (of the grant) leads to the most interesting research and the greatest breakthroughs,” Quataert said.

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  • JJMMC

    Jim Simons is a boss.