Alessandra Buonanno has been awarded the Balzan Prize, along with Thibault Damour of the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in France, for pioneering work in gravitational waves. They will share the 750,000 Swiss franc award.
Buonanno is the director of the Astrophysical and Cosmological Relativity Department at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in Potsdam and a Research Professor at the University of Maryland.
She joined the UMD Department of Physics in 2005, and received an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship and the Richard A. Ferrell Distinguished Faculty Fellowship. She is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation. In 2018, she received the Leibniz Prize, Germany's prestigious research award. Earlier in 2021, she was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and was awarded the Galileo Galilei Medal of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN). Buonanno was also recently elected to the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, which originated in 1652 as a classical scholarly society, and she received the Dirac Medal, along with Damour, Frans Pretorius, and Saul Teukolsky.
Buonanno's research has spanned several topics in gravitational-wave theory, data-analysis and cosmology. She is a Principal Investigator of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and her waveform modeling of cosmological events has been crucial in the experiment’s many successes.