Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Physics
Competition: Latin America & Caribbean
Brazilian-born Márcio Catelan is among the most talented astrophysicists in Latin America. First drawn to astronomy as a boy by Carl Sagen's Cosmos television series, he excelled in math and physics and quickly stood out among other undergraduates at the University of São Paulo, winning a scholarship to carry out research in the university's Mathematical Physics Department of the Physics Faculty, where he earned a B.Sc. degree in 1989. But wishing to more closely pursue studies in astrophysics, rather than theoretical physics, he then applied for and won a FAPESP Scientific Initiation grant to carry out research at the university's Astronomy and Geophysics Institute. While only a Master's degree student he published four refereed papers, three as sole author; during his Ph.D. studies at the same institute he was either sole or first author of thirteen more refereed papers. He received his Ph.D. in 1996. Among the products of his dissertation research was his development of a tool, still used today, to produce synthetic horizontal branches for comparison with globular star clusters. He was the inaugural winner of the Best Ph.D. Thesis of the Biennium Award from the Brazilian Astronomical Society.
His extraordinary accomplishments secured him a National Research Council/NASA Research Associateship, which allowed him to work at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, first as a research associate and then as Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow (1998-99), to date the only person with a Ph.D. from a Latin American institution to be so honored. He continued his Hubble Fellowship at the University of Virginia from 1999 to 2001. During this time, Mr. Catelan, barely thirty years old, was already a referee for such prominent journals in his field as Astronomy and Astrophysics, The Astrophysical Journal, and The Astrophysical Journal (Letters), as well as reviewer of grant applications for the National Science Foundation.
In 2001 he accepted an appointment as associate professor of physics and astronomy at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, which is known for having some of the largest telescopes and advanced astrophysical equipment in the world. He is currently the head of graduate studies of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Department. Since moving to Chile he has continued his studies on the formation of the Milky Way Galaxy, as well as his many fruitful collaborations with astrophysicists around the world. He has been an invited lecturer at the XXXIVth Latin American Physics School in Lima, Peru, in 2002, and the XIth Special Courses at the National Observatory of Rio de Janeiro in 2006, among many other international conferences and symposia. He has published over sixty articles in international refereed journals, in addition to numerous book chapters, a book on stellar pulsations (with Horace A. Smith) and a graduate-level text on astrophysical tools (with Alejandro Clocchiatti).
Márcio Catelan is a member of the American Astronomical Society, the Brazilian Astronomical Society, the Chilean Astronomical Society, and the International Astronomical Union.