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Lazzati wins NSF CAREER Award to study cosmic dust

Davide Lazzati
Davide Lazzati

Davide Lazzati, assistant professor of physics at NC State University, has received an Early Career Development Award, more commonly known as a CAREER Award, from the National Science Foundation.

The award is one of the highest honors given by NSF to early-career university faculty in science and engineering, and is intended to advance the development of their research and careers. This is the 21st CAREER Award received by a PAMS faculty member – and the fourth received by a member of the physics faculty – since 2004.

Lazzati’s five-year, $650,000 grant will fund research related to his proposal, titled “Understanding Stellar Forges: The Properties and the Physics of Formation of Cosmic Dust.”

A little thing like dust can be a very big deal

While we consider dust to be pretty inconsequential here on Earth, the unrelated space version plays a major role in the evolution of the universe: Cosmic dust can play an important part in the formation process of planets and in the birth – and death – of stars.

Despite its importance, there is a lot about the physics of cosmic dust that is still poorly understood. Through this NSF-funded research, Lazzati and his team intend to improve our understanding of dust particles in the universe: their properties, how they form, and how and where they can be observed.

The research will combine analytical and numerical techniques to study dust particles of all sizes, from the smallest macromolecules and clusters up to micron-sized crystalline and amorphous solids.

Bringing the cosmos to Jones Street

Part of the project’s funding will support a unique K-12 outreach partnership with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. Lazzati, who is fluent in Spanish, and partners at NC State and the museum will use elements of the research program to develop interactive English and Spanish programs for K-12 students and the general public on the evolution of elements and dust in the universe.

The museum attracts more than 650,000 visitors annually and has dramatically increased its virtual reach through the new technologies made available through the new addition of the Nature Research Center.

About Davide Lazzati

A native of Italy, Lazzati earned an undergraduate degree in physics and a Ph.D. in astronomy at the University of Milan. He then served as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge and at JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, before joining the NC State faculty in 2008.

For more information, please visit the Website for the Lazzati Astrophysics Research Group: