If you ask Katie Bouman if she’s responsible for the first photo revealed of a black hole, she would humbly say that it’s the result of incredible work carried out by 200 scientists. But this young 29-year-old researcher is nevertheless a prime example of hard work and determination.
A dream study program
Born in 1989 in Indiana in the United States, it is difficult to believe that at her age, she was involved in such an important scientific achievement. But all you have to do is take a look at her background to understand. She studied computer engineering at the University of Michigan before going on to do her doctorate at the very prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
At the head of creating an algorithm
Six years ago, she joined numerous other researchers from all over the world, hoping to be able to observe a black hole for the first time. She led a team to create an algorithm that would reconstruct the image. Thanks to this computer software, they were able to reconstruct the image of a black hole with the enormous amount of data that was collected by 8 radio telescopes.
In November 2016, Katie Bouman gave a ‘TED’ talk to explain how it would be possible to take a photo of a black hole. She explained that it was like trying to take a photo of an orange on the moon, you would need a telescope the size of the Earth. A few years later, she has become one of the symbols of this incredible success.
A woman in a world of men
The scientific world is particularly difficult for women. When Canadian Donna Strickland received the Nobel Prize for Physics with two male colleagues in 2018, she was the only one who did not have a Wikipedia page. There are lots of examples like this, but Katie Bouman doesn’t suffer because of the ‘Matilda effect’.
She now has an incredible reputation that she feels a bit embarrassed about, insisting that it’s not just one algorithm or just one person responsible for the photo of the black hole, but actually 200 researchers, of which 40 are women.