Sheperd Doeleman
  • 2020 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics


American astrophysicist. Senior research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and the director of the Event Horizon Telescope project. He received the 2020 Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics for “the first image of a supermassive black hole,taken by means of an Earth-sized alliance of telescopes.”

Education and Work Experience

1995, Ph.D. in Physics, MIT, Cambridge, MA
2016-Present, Senior General Engineer, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
2016-2019, Director, Event Horizon Telescope Consortium
2019-Present, Founding Director, Event Horizon Telescope Consortium

Honors and Awards

2012, Guggenheim Fellowship
2020, Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

Major Academic Achievements

Doeleman's research employs the technique of Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), in which widely separated radio dishes are combined to form an Earth-sized virtual telescope. He has used this technique to study the atmospheres of dying stars, as well as stars that are just being born. His group at MIT pioneered development of instrumentation that enables VLBI to achieve the greatest resolving power possible from the surface of the Earth. He carried out the first global experiments using these new systems that successfully measured the size of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way Galaxy and in the galaxy M87. He now directs the international Event Horizon Telescope project, whose goal is to image the event horizon of a black hole. This project addresses several fundamental questions about the Universe: Do event horizons exist? Does Einstein's theory of gravity hold near a black hole? How do black holes affect the evolution of galaxies?