Brian Metzger ('03 BS) wins $250K Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists

The UI Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics major is now on faculty at Columbia University
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Brian Metzger
Dr. Brian Metzger ('03 BS)

Brian Metzger, who earned his undergraduate degrees from the University of Iowa in 2003, has received the Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists. The recognition carries a $250,000 cash prize, the largest unrestricted scientific prize offered to America’s most-promising, young faculty-level scientific researchers.

Read an Iowa Alumni Magazine profile on Brian Metzger from 2018.

Read the Blavatnik Family Foundation's recognition of Dr. Metzger, with links to some of his prominent publications.

Metzger, the Blavatnik Prize 2020 Laureate in Physical Sciences & Engineering, triple-majored at Iowa in physics, astronomy, and mathematics, graduating with Highest Distinction. He is now associate professor in the Department of Physics at Columbia University, after completing his PhD and postdoctoral work at the University of California, Berkeley, and fellowships at Princeton University.

In a 2018 profile in the Iowa Alumni Magazine, the Burlington, Iowa, native credited his UI undergraduate experience for his success as a scientist and professor.

Kilonova
NASA images of the kilonova observed in 2017

“My UI professors inspired me to love science,” Metzger said. “I want to help launch my own students’ careers, and I know their breakthroughs will be even greater than ours."

Metzger, whose heroes growing up included the legendary UI space-exploration pioneer James Van Allen, has kept in close touch with the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Metzger won the Blavatnik Prize for predicting the creation of gold and other elements in the collision of merging neuron stars; he coined the term "kilonova" for such then-theoretical collisions. His predictions were borne out in 2017 when the first actual kilonova was observed and satellite measurements confirmed the creation of the universe's heaviest known elements.

The Blavatnik National Awards were first given in 2014, building on a successful regional awards program by the Blavatnik Family Foundation. The awards celebrate the past accomplishments and future potential of young faculty members working in the three disciplinary categories of Life Sciences, Physical Sciences & Engineering, and Chemistry. Metzger is the first University of Iowa graduate to receive the recognition.


The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.