Theoretical astrophysicist Ue-Li Pen has received a prestigious award from the Simons Foundation to tackle big questions about the universe.

Ue-Li Pen, an associate faculty member at Perimeter Institute and the interim director of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) at the University of Toronto, joins 15 others honoured from North America, the UK, and Ireland with a Simons Investigator Award.

He is the second researcher at a Canadian institution to receive the award since the program was introduced in 2012.

Pen is well known for developing innovative tools to create new fields of research. His pioneering work on 21 cm intensity mapping, for example, has opened a new window for the precision study of dark energy and neutrinos. Likewise, a novel framework developed by Pen and collaborators uses plasma in our galaxy as a giant telescope, and enables far more precise observation of enigmatic astrophysical phenomena like pulsars and fast radio bursts than was previously possible. This may greatly enhance our understanding of spacetime, including gravitational waves.

“I am honoured at this award, which will enable the flexibility and risk taking to explore new physics in plasmas and spacetime,” he said.

The Simons Investigator Awards support outstanding researchers in mathematics, physics, astrophysics, and theoretical computer science during their most productive years, when they are “establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership to the field, and effectively mentoring junior scientists.” Each award provides Investigators with $100,000 (US) per year for five years.

Pen added, “New discoveries are occurring with fast radio bursts and pulsar scintillations – the unrestricted Simons Investigator funds provide unique opportunities to explore the unknown.”

– Natasha Waxman




About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.

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Ue-Li Pen is just the second researcher in Canada to receive a Simons Investigator Award since 2012.