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Hewitt wins 1995 Edgerton award

Associate Professor Jacqueline N. Hewitt of the Department of Physics, a radio astronomer who has made significant contributions in the study of gravitational lenses, has been chosen by her faculty colleagues to receive the 1995-96 Harold E. Edgerton Award.

Her selection was announced at the May 17 faculty meeting by Professor Thomas A. Herring. He spoke for the Edgerton Committee which also included Professors Evelyn F. Keller, Jeffrey H. Lang and Anthony T. Patera.

The award, which carries an honorarium of $5,000, was established in 1982 with contributions made by the faculty in honor of Institute Professor Harold E. Edgerton. It recognizes young faculty members for distinction in teaching, research and service to MIT. Professor Edgerton died January 4, 1990.

The announcement drew standing applause. Professor Hewitt, who received the AB degree in economics (1980) from Bryn Mawr College and the PhD in physics (1986) from MIT, spoke briefly and said the honor, coming as it did from colleagues, was particularly appreciated.

Professor Herring, reading from the award citation, said Professor Hewitt "has made significant contributions in the study of gravitational lenses-the bending of light by matter predicted by general relativity." She discovered the first Einstein ring and "also discovered one of only a handful of gravitational lenses known as `quads' which consist of four split images of a distant radio source.

"The time differences between the temporal variations of various components of a gravitationally lensed object can lead to determination of the Hubble constant. In this regard, Jackie was the prime mover of the research that led to the first radio measurement of the time delay in a gravitational lens. Overall, Jackie's group is arguably the best in the world at discovering, investigating and probing the physical properties of these sources."

Professor Hewitt has started "a major new project to search for planets around low-mass stars using phased very long baseline interferometry," Professor Herring continued. "This is a most challenging undertaking and should lead to rather important results if successful. Jackie is also developing a prototype of an array of very small radio telescopes, each with wide fields of view, to monitor transient radio sources."

The citation praised Professor Hewitt's teaching, particularly in Introduction to Astrophysics, and said she consistently receives high ratings from students.

Professor Hewitt has four graduate students working in her group, three in their fourth year and one in the third year. "At any one time, Jackie typically has three undergraduate research students under her supervision. In all, she is successfully mentoring a large, highly talented group of young scientists.

"Our committee had the pleasure and privilege of reviewing the accomplishments of some of the many very talented young faculty members at MIT. It was a difficult task to narrow the selection to one person, but we believe that none is more worthy of receiving the 1995-96 Harold E. Edgerton Award than Jacqueline N. Hewitt," Professor Herring said.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 24, 1995.

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