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Best Early Career Researcher in Observational Astrophysics 2021

Dr Cosimo Inserra

(Cardiff University, United Kingdom)

The 2021 MERAC Prize for the Best Early Career Researcher in Observational Astrophysics is awarded to Dr Cosimo Inserra (Cardiff University, United Kingdom) for the investigation of the extremes of stellar explosions, providing a pioneering contribution to their understanding and their role in astronomy and astrophysics.

Dr Inserra obtained his PhD in 2012 from the University of Catania. He moved as Postdoc to Queen’s University Belfast, United Kingdom where he was awarded the Royal Astronomical Society Winton Capital Award 2017. He moved to the University of Southampton in 2017, and then in 2018 to Cardiff University as Lecturer. Since 2019, he has been the principal investigator and survey manager of the largest worldwide spectroscopic survey in timedomain astronomy (ePESSTO+). His research strengths and cross-disciplinary skills led him to hold the Deputy Director of Research position at the School of Physics and Astronomy at Cardiff University, and that of Ambassador at the Data Intensive Research Institute in Cardiff.

Dr Cosimo Inserra's work has had a significant impact on time-domain astrophysics, cosmology and machine learning applied to astronomy. His seminal paper, that is still shaping the transient astronomy field presented the first sample analysis of a newlydiscovered class of supernovae that defied previous knowledge of supernova explosions. He showed that the characteristic observational evidence of a supernova explosion could be reproduced by the energy deposition of a newborn magnetar. This investigation has been pivotal in the understanding of this new class of supernovae, which usually explode in lowmetallicity, star-forming galaxies and are among the brightest explosions.

Dr Inserra has obtained pioneering work in different fields. He discovered a twin class of superluminous supernovae. The findings leading to the geometrical shape and the cosmological usefulness of superluminous supernovae have been pivotal studies expanding the frontier of cosmic explosions and opening a plethora of synergies with stellar and universe evolution over cosmic time up to z≈10.

Dr Inserra is now the lead scientist and survey director of the current extension of the largest, worldwide, spectroscopic survey in time-domain astronomy, ePESSTO+. His vision of timedomain astronomy priorities and a new observing strategy has allowed ePESSTO+ to further improve efficiency and timeliness with respect to its earlier two progenitor surveys. He is a member of the Euclid Consortium leading the science area of the extremes of the supernova population, as well as a UK Principal Investigator and UK point of contact for Transient and Variable Stars science of the LSST Consortium at the Vera Rubin Observatory.

The work of Dr Cosimo Inserra has been conducted at Queens University Belfast, the University of Southampton and Cardiff University, United Kingdom.