Skip to main content
Vanderbilt Background Photo

Stephen Taylor named featured plenary lecturer for global astronomy conference

Posted by on Thursday, November 9, 2023 in News Story.

Stephen Taylor, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, has been selected to give the opening lecture at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) semiannual meeting. The meeting, the largest regularly occurring astronomy conference in the world, will take place in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 7-11, 2024.

Stephen Taylor, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

The Fred Kavli Plenary Lecture is devoted to a breakthrough topic of significant importance from the previous year’s discoveries. Taylor was selected because of his groundbreaking work as chair of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) Collaboration. Under his leadership, NANOGrav discovered evidence for a consistent background of gravitational waves washing through our galaxy from the far reaches of the universe. This discovery opens an entirely new window on our understanding of gravitational waves and is arguably the most substantial development in astrophysics in 2023.

“Being selected to deliver the opening ‘breakthrough’ plenary on this global platform is a huge honor and validation of my work to pioneer gravitational-wave astrophysics,” Taylor said. “I am thrilled to share more about the exciting work that my group is doing at Vanderbilt as part of NANOGrav and the International Pulsar Timing Array collaborations.”

The 243rd meeting of the AAS will gather the leading astronomers and astrophysicists from around the globe to share and learn about the most important research and advancements in the field. Taylor’s keynote lecture will open the meeting. In his lecture, he will discuss how NANOGrav discovered a background of gravitational waves by monitoring a network of objects throughout the galaxy called pulsars—which are like cosmic lighthouses. The groundbreaking discovery was covered widely in news outlets, making it on to the front page of The Washington Post in June.

Taylor joins an esteemed group of scientists who have given the Fred Kavli Plenary lecture in the past, including scholars making pioneering discoveries on black holes, galaxy formation, dark matter, the possibility of life on other planets, and many other areas fundamental to our understanding of our universe.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. Its membership of approximately 8,000 also includes physicists, geologists, engineers, and others whose interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising the astronomical sciences. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

The Kavli Foundation, established in December 2000 by Fred Kavli, a California business leader and philanthropist, is dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of humanity, promoting public understanding of scientific research, and supporting scientists and their work. The foundation’s mission is implemented through an international program of research institutes, professorships, symposia, and other initiatives in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics.

Tags: , ,