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The HEAD Dissertation Prize

The HEAD Dissertation Prize is awarded by the HEAD Executive Committee at the time of the Division Meeting (every 18 months) to recognize an outstanding doctoral dissertation in high-energy astrophysics. The winner of the prize will receive a certificate, a cash award of $1000, and an invitation to give a 30-minute invited talk at the HEAD Meeting. HEAD will waive the meeting registration fee for the winner and cover up to $1500 of the winner's travel expenses to attend the meeting.

The 2021 Dissertation Prize Winner: Renee Ludlam

The 2021 HEAD Dissertation Prize was awarded to Renee Ludlam for her dissertation entitled "A Hard Look at Accretion Around Neutron Stars". Her work showed how accretion disk reflection can be used to place limits on neutron star radii (and therefore the equation of state). This thesis was awarded at the University of Michigan (Advisor: Jon Miller).  The other two 2021 Dissertation Prize finalists were Adi Foord for her thesis "Discovering the Missing Population of AGN Pairs with Chandra" and Guang Yang for his thesis "What Drives the Growth of Black Holes?".  Please see the HEAD press release for more information.

Citations of previous Dissertation prize winners

The Nomination Process

Those who have received their degree within 3 years prior to the HEAD meeting date are eligible for the prize. Those who have not had their degree conferred by the nomination deadline should wait for the next opportunity to apply.

The due date for nomination materials to be submitted to the HEAD Secretary will be approximately six months before the HEAD division meeting. Materials should be submitted via email to the HEAD Secretary at The following materials should be submitted, with at least one letter written by a HEAD member (letters of recommendation may be sent directly to the HEAD secretary). Self-nominations are not accepted.

  • A 3-page summary of the thesis (not to exceed 5 pages total including figures and bibliography)
  • A nomination letter, nominally by the thesis supervisor and acceptably by any HEAD member except the nominee, including a statement certifying that the PhD has been awarded
  • Two additional letters of recommendation
  • CV and publication list

The current deadline for nominations is October 15, 2021.