Published: July 9, 2009

MSU professor earns Humboldt Award

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Timothy Beers, a University Distinguished Professor of physics and astronomy at Michigan State University, is a 2009 recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Senior Research Award.


The Germany-based Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants up to 100 Humboldt Research Awards annually to foreign scientists and scholars with internationally recognized academic qualifications. The Senior Research Award honors the academic and research achievements of the award winner's lifetime. Humboldt Awards are given to researchers whose fundamental discoveries have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing significant achievements in the future.


An MSU faculty member since 1986, Beers is considered a worldwide leader in the search for the oldest and most chemically primitive stars in the galaxy and universe. His work has led to the identification of more than 25,000 of the most ancient stars yet found. In fact, he is a co-discoverer of the two most primitive “still shining” stars known.


“The Humboldt Senior Research Award recognizes the hard work of many of my colleagues as well, as they participated in decades of spectroscopic follow-up of the HK-survey candidate metal-poor stars, using telescopes all over the world,” Beers said. “MSU's participation in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and its extensions, has taken this work to the next level.” 


The award is valued at 60,000 Euros, or approximately $84,000. Award winners are invited to carry out research projects of their own choice in Germany in cooperation with colleagues for periods of between six months and one year.


The award will allow Beers to conduct additional research in Heidelberg, Germany, where he will work with colleagues on the analysis of the chemical compositions and kinematics of the low-metallicity stars discovered by the surveys with which he has been involved, and on new and larger survey projects in the future.


Before coming to MSU, Beers was a Bantrell Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Purdue, and master’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard University.