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Ewine van Dishoeck receives american prize for leading role in astrochemistry

The Dutch scientist prof. dr. Ewine F. van Dishoeck, Leiden Observatory, Leiden University and Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, will receive the 2018 James Craig Watson Medal from the american National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

A world leader in the fields of molecular astronomy and astrochemistry, van Dishoeck employs observations, theory and experiments to explain the evolutionary traits that lead to the formation of stars and planets from interstellar gas and dust, as well as the chemical basis for the origin of life.

Among her accomplishments, van Dishoeck elucidated the interplay between chemical processes and the thermal structure of star- and planet-forming regions, thereby improving our understanding of how these bodies come to exist.

Her studies have also tackled the chemistry, growth and photoprocessing of interstellar ices, a key step in the eventual establishment of the composition of protoplanetary disks, comets and then planetary bodies. This includes linking observations and experiments on the formation of complex prebiotic molecules under very cold conditions. She and her colleagues have also quantified the cold and hot water reservoirs in disks, from young to old, relevant for understanding our own origins.

In addition to her scientific accomplishments, van Dishoeck has contributed to the future of the field through her mentorship of dozens of students and postdocs and her ongoing leadership in working groups, science boards, committees and organizations.

The James Craig Watson Medal is presented every two years for outstanding contributions to the science of astronomy and carries with it a gold-plated bronze medal, a $25,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research. The Watson Medal was established by NAS Member and prolific Canadian-American astronomer, James Craig Watson. Watson is credited with discovering twenty-two asteroids in his lifetime. He published many articles and wrote A Popular Treatise on Comets (1861) and Theoretical Astronomy (1868).

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