Published: May 9, 2024

Distinguished Professor Mitch Begelman of astrophysical and planetary sciences is recognized for ‘distinguished and continuing achievements in original research’

Mitch Begelman, distinguished professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the academy has announced.

Begelman is one of 120 U.S. members and 24 international members who were recognized this year for their “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”

Begelman's research primarily explores the frontiers of theoretical and high-energy astrophysics, focusing on the dynamics of black holes and their energy outputs. His pioneering work has significantly advanced the understanding of how black holes influence their surrounding environments and contribute to the broader structure of the universe.

In 2022, for instance, he was part of a team of researchers who observed a sudden change in the magnetic field lines in a class of black holes known as active galaxy nuclei.

Covers of books written by Mitch Begelman

CU Boulder scientist Mitch Begelman is the author of Turn Right at Orion:Travels Through the Cosmos and co-author of Gravity’s Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe.

Begelman said he was gratified by the recognition: “It's an especially nice honor, because it's a recognition by peers who themselves have been honored for their contributions to science. It's also an invitation to help the academy further its mission to advise the government on science policy and planning, and I look forward to playing my part in that responsibility.”

David Brain, associate professor and chair of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences, said the recognition was well deserved: “He is an excellent scientist, more than worthy of recognition by the National Academy. Importantly for the APS department, he is also an excellent professor,” Brain said, adding:

“He enthusiastically teaches large undergraduate courses on black holes and astrophysics, and is very active in service to the department, including serving as department chair twice. He manages to do all of this while still regularly producing high-quality science with his students, postdocs and colleagues.”

Begelman is the author of Turn Right at Orion:Travels Through the Cosmos and co-author of Gravity’s Fatal Attraction: Black Holes in the Universe. He has been an author on more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Begelman holds a PhD in theoretical astrophysics from the University of Cambridge and degrees in physics from Harvard University. He joined the CU Boulder faculty in 1982 and has served as chair of his department. Begelman is also a fellow of JILA, a joint institute of CU Boulder and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Among previous recognition that Begelman has received are the following: The CU Board of Regents bestowed the title of distinguished professor on him in 2020, and the College of Arts and Sciences named him a professor of distinction in 2018. He was listed as a Highly Cited Researcher, a measure of a researcher’s influence, in 2001.

He won the Boulder Faculty Assembly Award for Excellence in Research, Scholarly and Creative Work in 2000, and he won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998.

Begelman is the 46th CU Boulder faculty member to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first being selected in 1945. Other CU Boulder members include its Nobel laureates Carl Wieman, Eric Cornell, John Hall, David Wineland and Thomas Cech.

Those elected to the academy this year bring the total number of active members to 2,617 and the total number of international members to 537. International members are nonvoting members of the academy, with citizenship outside the United States.

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