Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Dr. Ozel attended the Uskudar American Academy for middle school and high school, graduating in 1992. She received her BS summa cum laude in physics and applied mathematics from Columbia University and was the salutatorian of her class. Spending a year in Europe, she completed her MS at the Niels Bohr Institute in 1997 and worked at CERN. She received her PhD from Harvard University in astrophysics in 2002 on the effects of the intense gravitational and magnetic fields of neutron stars. Before joining the faculty at the University of Arizona, she was a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow and member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
Dr. Ozel is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and was elected to the Science Academy of Turkey. She is a member of JASON, an elite group of scientists who advise the US government on matters of science and technology. In recognition of her work, Dr. Ozel was awarded the Maria Goeppert Mayer award from the American Physical Society, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University, a Miller Institute Visiting Professorship from the University of California in Berkeley, and, with the EHT collaboration, the Breakthrough Prize, the Rossi Prize of the American Astronomical Society, a Diamond Achievement award from the National Science Foundation, and recognized with the distinction of Breakthrough of the Year by Science.
Dr. Ozel has taken on numerous leadership roles at the national and international level. She is co-chair of NASA’s Next Generation Mission Concept Study for the Lynx X-ray Observatory and has served for three years as chair of NASA’s Astrophysics Advisory Committee. As a founding member of the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, she has been serving on the EHT Science Council since 2016 and was lead of the Modeling Working Group for three years, which was key to the success of the first black hole image and its science results.
Dr. Ozel is also an enthusiastic and committed science communicator and public speaker. She has contributed to numerous science documentaries on PBS, the History Channel, and CNN International, served as scientific advisor to PBS and BBC programs, given public talks to very large audiences around the world, and worked with planetariums on new shows. She has partnered with Louis Vuitton to support a women’s literacy campaign in the Middle East, to enable access to information among adult women and, with the Sabanci Foundation, to enable access to education for younger girls. She also works with K-12 teacher enrichment programs and leads Zoom classroom events for worldwide dissemination of astrophysics at the high school science level.