New Brunswick, N.J. (Oct. 15, 2020) – Blakesley Burkhart’s childhood days spent volunteering at a science museum and watching the Discovery Channel and sci-fi shows sparked her love of science and fascination with the stars.

“These were the beginning years of the Hubble Space Telescope and the golden age of Mars Pathfinder,” she said. “I loved learning and I wanted to be a part of the process of scientific discovery.”

Now, two decades later, the 34-year-old astrophysicist and assistant professor in the department of physics and astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick is being recognized as an innovative young scientist.

The David and Lucile Packard Foundation announced today that Burkhart was chosen as a 2020 science and engineering fellow, a distinction shared by all three U.S. women who won the Nobel Prize this year, two for science and one for literature.

Burkhart was awarded $875,000 over the next five years to further her research into studies of the formation of stars. In 2007, Rutgers physicist Emil Yuzbashyan also was named as a Packard fellow.

“I think if people pay more attention to astronomy, they will start to realize how big the universe is and how small we are in this space,” Burkhart said. “We might begin to think of ourselves as one humanity on planet Earth rather than in the nationalistic terms that many see now.”

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Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top 60 universities, Rutgers’s flagship is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It has an internationally acclaimed faculty, 12 degree-granting schools and the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse student body.