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Dr. Mario Diaz, Professor of Earns Medal for Scientific Work

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Dr. Mario Diaz, UTRGV professor of physics and astronomy and director of the university’s Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy, will be awarded the Leopoldo Garcia-Colin Medal Award at the VII Leopoldo Garcia-Colin Mexican Meeting on Mathematical and Experimental Physics in Mexico City on Friday, Feb. 21. Diaz, right, is pictured here at the unveiling of the Dr. Cristina Torres Memorial Astronomical Observatory in May 2018 with Dr. Torres’ mother, Maricela Torres. (UTRGV Archival Photo by David Pike)

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By Maria Elena Hernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – As part of the team that made possibly the most important astronomical discovery of the 21st century, Dr. Mario Diaz encouraged other Latin Americans to participate in the research.

“It is something I’m proud of,” said Diaz, UTRGV professor of physics and astronomy and director of the university’s Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy.

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Diaz, who is part of the team that first observed gravitational waves and later observed the collision of two neutron stars in 2017, is being awarded for his work and his support of Latin American researchers and students.

He will receive the Leopoldo Garcia-Colin Medal Award at the VII Leopoldo Garcia-Colin Mexican Meeting on Mathematical and Experimental Physics in Mexico City on Friday, Feb. 21.

“I feel very honored,” said Diaz, who said his support of Latin American students started with Cristina Torres, a research assistant professor in the CGWA who died in 2015.

“I met her when I first came to UT Brownsville in 1996 and convinced her, instead of studying engineering, to go into physics,” he said.

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Torres later would earn her Ph.D. in physics and become a research assistant professor at the university’s CGWA. The UTRGV Dr. Cristina V. Torres Memorial Astronomical Observatory was named posthumously in her honor.

Diaz said there has been tremendous excitement in the scientific community surrounding the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration and the team’s first observation of gravitational waves.

“It was equivalent to the very first observation of the sky using an instrument in the time of Galileo,” Diaz said. “By doing that, a new era in astronomy started that was much more precise. There was a lot that was understood and started to be understood since then.”

Researchers hope to learn a lot about the “evolution of the stars and what happens to them and what’s going to happen with the universe,” he said.

“When you think that we’re destined to get out of this planet eventually and go on to travel through the cosmos, we really need to know what the cosmos is all about.”

While in Mexico City, Diaz will give a talk about the latest gravitational wave research at the VII Leopoldo Garcia-Colin Mexican Meeting on Mathematical and Experimental Physics. The conference aims to introduce young Mexican scientists and graduate students to new areas of research.

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