Black holes, collapsed stars with huge mass within which gravity is so intense that even light cannot escape. This is just one of the complex areas tackled by Chilean theoretical physicist Claudio Bunster, the recent recipient of a prestigious science prize.
Bunster received the award — the Lenovo Science Prize given by The World Academy of Science (TWAS) in partnership with Chinese technology firm Lenovo — as a recognition of his contribution to understanding gravity and the physics of tiny fundamental particles of matter.
The TWAS prize was conceived as an award to recognize the pioneering work of scientists operating in the developing world. Presented at a TWAS general meeting in Buenos Aires October 1 by the academy’s president, Professor Bai Chunli, the award honored the renowned Chilean scientist’s work over a long, successful career that has included research at renowned institutes such as the Universidad de Chile and Princeton University.
Accepting the prize, Bunster — who directs the Valdivia-based, non-profit science corporation Center for Scientific Studies (CECs) — showed his appreciation and emphasized the global nature of the academy and the connections it fosters.
“Coming to Buenos Aires to receive this prize from The World Academy of Sciences and Lenovo is to be rewarded at home by the world,” Bunster said. “It is perhaps symbolic that the phone call from TWAS President Professor Bai Chunli with the good news was placed from Beijing to Valdivia: two places with a time difference of 12 hours, and whose latitudes are the same in magnitude, but one North and the other South.”
The TWAS president, meanwhile, took the opportunity to praise Bunster for his considerable achievements in theoretical physics.
“The work done by Claudio Bunster Weitzman over the course of a very productive career has improved our understanding of the fundamental workings of nature,” Bai said. “He is a world-class scientist, and he is a powerful symbol of the excellent science that is being done by researchers in the South.”
Included in the honor is a US$ 100,000 dollar prize provided by Lenovo. At the award ceremony a company representative stressed the need to support innovative research such as that of Bunster.
As well as a growing reputation for research in its renowned universities, Chile also boasts a number of prize-winning scientists in a range of fields. One recent example is the two young scientists who received the UNESCO “For Women in Science” prize for their research on the pharmaceutical treatment of diabetes , marking the fifth consecutive year that the award has been given to a Chilean team.