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Laureates / 

David Charbonneau

After growing up on the outskirts of Ottawa, David Charbonneau went to study mathematics and physics at the University of Toronto and, like Sara Seager, then moved south of the border to work on a PhD in exoplanets at Harvard University. He defended his thesis in 2001, having carried out observations at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, before doing post-doctoral research at the California Institute of Technology. He returned to Harvard as a professor in 2004 and remains there two decades on.

Charbonneau has pioneered the observation of exoplanetary transits, first using the technique to confirm the presence of a hot Jupiter in orbit around the star HD209458 – obtained using a tiny 4-inch telescope. He went on to scrutinize the atmospheres of exoplanets, in 2001 using data from the Hubble Space Telescope to identify sodium in light transmitted through the atmosphere of HD209458, then three years later measuring an exoplanet's own thermal emission in observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope. He has also built MEarth – arrays of robotic telescopes in the northern and southern hemispheres – finding a number of small exoplanets around M dwarf stars, including the Earth-like world LHS1140b.

Charbonneau has received several prizes during his career, including the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation in 2009, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Prize in the Physical Sciences in 2012 and the Blavatnik Award in Physical Sciences and Engineering four years later. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.