Lai receives Brouwer Career Award in astronomy

Dong Lai, Ph.D. ’94, the Benson Jay Simon ’59 MBA ’62 and Mary Ellen Simon MA ’63 Professor of Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S), has been awarded the 2024 Dirk Brouwer Career Award by the Division on Dynamical Astronomy (DDA) of the American Astronomical Society.

The award recognizes Lai’s “formidable and broad contributions to astrophysical dynamics, his outstanding mentoring record, and his wide-ranging professional service activities.”

“Prof. Lai is a prolific researcher whose expertise spans fluid dynamics, magneto-hydrodynamics, N-body dynamics and relativistic dynamics, as well as neutron stars, black holes, white dwarfs and exoplanets. The depth and impact of his expertise is showcased in his many invited review papers, as well as with his individual pioneering advancements in each of these fields,” the award citation states. “Prof. Lai's boundless enthusiasm and energy for scientific advancement has also benefited the community through his mentorship and service.”

Examples of Lai’s contributions to dynamical astronomy include the identification of astrophysical spin-orbit coupling in binary pulsars as a robust mechanism for measuring the asymmetry of core-collapse supernovae and the application of tidal dissipation in planet-hosting stars to reveal the prior evolutionary history of the planets.

Lai’s research lies in theoretical astrophysics. His current work focuses on compact objects, including neutron stars, black holes, white dwarfs, and gravitational waves. He also has an active research program on exoplanets and astrophysical dynamics in general.

“I am humbled by this recognition. Some of the previous recipients have been my scientific heroes,” Lai said. “I have been fortunate to work with some talented young people over the years at Cornell, for which I am grateful.”

Lai joined the Cornell astronomy faculty in the Fall of 1997 after three years as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech. He has held visiting positions at the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard University; Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, and several research institutes in China (National and Shanghai Astronomical Observatories, Tsinghua University, Shanghai Jiaotong University). 

In 2021, Lai received Cornell’s Provost Award for Teaching/Mentoring Excellence in Graduate and Professional Degree Programs. Many of the graduate students and postdoctoral researchers he supervised have gone on to lead successful careers. His service on advisory boards and his international peer review responsibilities have helped shape the future of dynamical astronomy. 

Lai will be invited to give a lecture at the 56th annual DDA meeting in the spring of 2025.

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		Dong Lai