Published in The Independent Florida Alligator 8-25-04


GAINESVILLE, Fla--Groundbreaking new research into the nature of black holes conducted by a scientist at the University of Florida has recently been published in a major scientific journal.

Reva Kay Williams, a UF courtesy postdoctoral associate, is used to attracting attention, however. Upon earning her doctorate in 1991 from Indiana University, she became the first black female astrophysicist in the nation.

Now Williams is finally getting noticed for years of hard work modeling black holes and helping to prove a 35-year-old theory known as the Penrose mechanism. Her work was published in the August 20 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, a respected periodical.

Williams is ecstatic. “I feel great about it,” she said.

Williams said, however, that it was a long hard road to getting her research officially recognized and believes that it went unnoticed for too long.

Stanley F. Dermott, chairman of the astronomy department at the University of Florida, shares Williams’ convictions concerning her work.

“She has had a long struggle, we are very pleased that it has been accepted for publication,” he said.

According to a press release, Williams’ research helps to validate the Penrose mechanism, proposed by Oxford professor Roger Penrose in 1969. This theory is mainly concerned with the emission of high-energy particles from black holes and the signatures they leave behind in space. Williams helped to model and explain the nature of these emissions. Before her contribution, the Penrose mechanism was often seen as flawed, but now is garnering a new respect.

In fact, according to Williams, Penrose himself might have had a hand in getting her work published. She met Penrose four years ago and since then he has been an advocate of her research.

Williams said she brought her work to the University of Florida because of a strong research tradition in the area of general relativity. She added that she hopes to join the faculty in the near future as she has looked forward to working here ever since she began her graduate studies.

Interestingly, Williams’ original interest in astrophysics came from deep-seated religious convictions rather than from purely intellectual curiosity.

“I am a strong believer in God, and how He created the universe. I wanted to tell other people how,” she said.

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