Physics professor Lars Bildsten has been honored with a position as endowed chair in the theoretical astrophysics program.
Bildsten was bestowed the Wayne Rosing, Simon and Diana Raab Chair from the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics for his groundbreaking work in the interstellar discipline. The award includes a $1 million research grant that will be matched by the institute.
According to Physics Dept. Chair Omer Blaes, Bildsten’s appointment represents a promising new era of research for the institute and university as a whole.
“First, [the donation] will provide professor Bildsten with financial resources to pursue new scientific and educational endeavors,” Blaes said. “Secondly, recognizing his considerable contributions to UCSB and to the community at large inspires the rest of us to continue to pursue excellence in these areas.”
Launched over three decades ago, KITP aims to explore regions of theoretical physics that are not normally studied by existing institutions.
Bildsten said the financial support from the institute and its donors will allow him to pursue a broad range of research opportunities at a rate that would be impossible without the endowment.
“I was very humbled and excited by the award,” Bildsten said in a press release. “The donors are very accomplished people and to have them recognize my scientific and educational contributions is a deep honor. The key impact on me is the use of flexible funds to move quickly as new opportunities arise for making a difference.”
Bildsten earned the prestigious honor of permanent tenure at the Kavli Institute in 1999.
According to Blaes, Bildsten is a talented instructor and advisor in addition to being a brilliant scientist.
“We in the physics department are absolutely delighted for professor Bildsten,” Blaes said. “This really could not have happened to a more deserving person. Professor Bildsten is an outstanding theoretical astrophysicist who is recognized both nationally and internationally for his scholarship, his leadership and his excellent track record for mentoring students and postdocs.”
His groundbreaking work, which focuses on stellar structure, includes research on nuclear burning on neutron stars, the role of neutron stars as gravity wave sources and the theory of lithium depletion. Bildsten said he is particularly interested in the various ways that stars die and how the phenomenon has been perceived on earth.
“My work focuses on the nature of stars and the behavior of the compact objects — black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs — that they leave behind,” Bildsten said. “Most recently, I have worked to predict new stellar explosions that are only now being found by observers.”
In addition to this most recent award, Bildsten has received various honors throughout his career, including the Helen B. Warner Prize from the American Astronomical Society in 1999 for his work on stellar astrophysics.
“He has been instrumental in developing astrophysics at UCSB,” Blaes said. “He has selflessly devoted his time and talents to education and outreach both at UCSB and in the local community.”