The 2022 Young Woman of Science Prize is awarded to Dr. Maura Pilia as an example for future generations of Sardinian female scientists as, after a course of study in various Italian and European universities, she returned to Sardinia and made her skills available his land, carrying out his research through the Sardinia Radio Telescope, the Sardinian radio telescope, which is located in Gerrei, his homeland. The research that Maura Pilia carries out concerns the Pulsars and Fast Radio Bursts. These are frontier researches that have contributed to developing the technology of the Sardinian radio telescope and to forge new collaborations for the development of instruments for the astronomy of the future. Maura Pilia combines her research work with teaching and dissemination activities. In the latter sector, in particular, we note the creation of a virtual reality game for the search for pulsar or FRB-type signals involving high school students.
Maura Pilia she graduated in Physics in 2005 with 110 cum laude; she continued his training in Bologna with a master’s degree in Astrophysics and Cosmology achieved in 2007 with a thesis on pulsars for observations with the AGILE satellite telescope, an entirely Italian telescope, launched in 2007, for the study of the Universe in gamma rays. Her career continued in Milan, Como, the Canary Islands and Holland where she won a postdoc, at the end of which she received an offer for two positions related to pulsars, one in Poland and one in Thailand, but in the meantime, received a grant from the Sardinia region, decides to return to Sardinia. She became a III level researcher at the Astronomical Observatory of Cagliari, she continues her studies through the Sardinia Radio Telescope (SRT).
In the years that followed her return (in 2015), she was involved both in the scientific validation of SRT in the field of pulsar science (neutron stars that emit radio signals at short and regular intervals) and, consistently with her multi-frequency, has opened new collaborations for the development of other telescopes. In particular, she is a member of the Italian Team responsible for the calibrations, simulations and science of IXPE, a NASA X-ray polarimeter (with important Italian participation), launched last November, which opened a new window for observation of heavenly springs. She is scientific co-responsible for the project that led to the reinvestment in science of the Northern Cross, the oldest Italian radio telescope, which had been decommissioned, for scientific research in the field of Fast Radio Bursts (FRB, gigantic explosions of cosmos from which only very short radio signals arrive, the study of which can give more information on how the Universe is made). She also collaborates in the development of the French radio telescope NenuFAR and in the definition of scientific objectives for future X-ray missions. Her work is based on a symbiosis between scientific and technological research, in a vision whereby the development of science it is closely linked to technological progress both from a software and hardware point of view.
The validity of her research is demonstrated by the various publications in high impact-factor journals, by the success of observational proposals and funding proposals, and by prestigious awards such as the Bruno Rossi Prize, awarded by the American Astronomical Society (High Energy Division) to the Team AGILE for its discoveries in the study of the Crab Pulsar.
She combines the research work with an important teaching and dissemination activity. She is co-teacher of the specialization course, for the master’s degree, in Astrophysics at the University of Cagliari and of the Radio Astronomy Laboratory.
She is engaged in dissemination activities such as guided visits to the telescope, the implementation of projects for the European Researchers’ Night, participation in events for the public organized by the Observatory and summer schools for students, the creation of a game in virtual reality for the search for pulsar or FRB-type signals involving high school students. The commitment to dissemination has a pulsating Sardinian heart: her participation in Sardinian radio broadcasts “Picciocus de Crobi” and “Istriores” on Radio1 Rai Sardegna is singular, to promote a return to the enhancement of the Sardinian language also through scientific dissemination. She is engaged in the field of gender issues, and minorities in general; she is currently part of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) working groups on Women in Astronomy.