Dr. Maria Drout Wins 2019 Polanyi Prize



(February 4, 2019) – Dr. Maria Drout has been awarded the 2019 Polanyi Prize in Physics for her contribution to our understanding of the evolution, influence, and ultimate fate of massive stars.

Drout, an Associate at the Dunlap Institute and Assistant Professor at the David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, received the award Tuesday at Massey College.

The Polanyi Prize recognizes outstanding researchers in the early stages of their career.It is awarded annually by the Council of Ontario Universities.

Clive Tonge, Van Valkenburg Communications

Drout says she is grateful to be recognized for her work. “John Polanyi is an inspiration, both because of his dedication to ground-breaking research, and his ability to effect real change in the world,” she says. “I hope to honour this legacy through continuing my work in time-domain astronomy, and building new initiatives to promote effective science communication across Canada.”

Drout is an observational astronomer who studies the evolution and death of massive stars and the origin of peculiar astronomical explosions. She was part of the team that discovered the first visible light counterpart to a gravitational wave source – deciphering the origin of heavy elements. Drout is also committed to promoting science communication, and has co-founded multiple outreach and education initiatives, including Astrobites.org and the Communicating Science Workshop (ComSciCon.com). She was previously a NASA Hubble Fellow at Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, and received her Ph.D. from Harvard.

Clive Tonge, Van Valkenburg Communications

Three of the last four Polanyi Prizes in Physics have gone to University of Toronto astronomers. In total, Drout is the sixth University of Toronto astronomer to win, joining Jason Hunt (2018), John Antoniadis (2016), Roman Rafikov (2006), Lawrence Widrow (1991), and Hyung Mok Lee (1987).

The Polanyi Prizes were established in 1987 by the Council of Ontario Universities. The annual prizes honour the achievements of John Charles Polanyi, a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Toronto, and the 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.


For more information, please contact: 
Meaghan MacSween
Communications and Multimedia Officer
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics,
University of Toronto
(416) 978-6613


The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto is an endowed research institute with nearly 70 faculty, postdocs, students and staff, dedicated to innovative technology, ground-breaking research, world-class training, and public engagement. The research themes of its faculty and Dunlap Fellows span the Universe and include: optical, infrared and radio instrumentation; Dark Energy; large-scale structure; the Cosmic Microwave Background; the interstellar medium; galaxy evolution; cosmic magnetism; and time-domain science. The Dunlap Institute, Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, and Centre for Planetary Sciences comprise the leading centre for astronomical research in Canada, at the leading research university in the country, the University of Toronto.