The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has inducted Rachel Somerville as a legacy fellow. The honor recognizes her “contributions toward the society’s mission of enhancing and sharing humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.” Somerville leads the Galaxy Formation group at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics (CCA) in New York City.
The AAS announced its fellow program in 2020 along with an inaugural class of legacy fellows, including CCA director David Spergel. Legacy fellows include past recipients of AAS awards, distinguished AAS leaders, and previously unrecognized individuals with long histories of outstanding research, teaching, mentoring and service. In 2013, Somerville received the Dannie Heineman Prize for Astrophysics from the AAS and the American Institute of Physics “for providing fundamental insights into galaxy formation and evolution using semi-analytic modeling, simulations and observations.”
In addition to her work at the CCA, Somerville was a 2014 Simons Investigator in Physics. She was previously the George A. and Margaret M. Downsbrough Chair in astrophysics and a distinguished professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Additionally, Somerville has held positions at the University of Michigan, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and Johns Hopkins University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and did postdoctoral work at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics and music from Reed College in Portland, Oregon.