FRIB’s Artemis Spyrou receives a 2022 Madame Figaro ‘Women of the Year’ award

It was a different kind of ceremony for a nuclear scientist: Formal dresses, photographers, lights, cameras, celebrities—even the president of Cyprus—in attendance, and all broadcast on television.

Artemis Spyrou, a professor of physics at FRIB and in the Michigan State University (MSU) Department of Physics and Astronomy, recently received the 2022 Madame Figaro “Women of the Year” Award in the scientist/academic category.

Launched in 2005 by “Madame Figaro” magazine, the annual “Women of the Year” Awards honor women of Cyprus who have made significant contributions and have become role models in a variety of different fields. Readers of the magazine vote for the award winners. Spyrou said the award is a recognition of her work and also the nuclear science field in general.

“This is above and beyond any award I ever hoped to win,” she said. “It makes me incredibly happy that people voted a nuclear scientist for this award.”

Spyrou earned her PhD in 2007 from the National Technical University of Athens and has been at MSU ever since. Her research focuses on studying the nuclear reactions that drive stellar processes. In particular, she designs and performs experiments that try to answer the question “How are the heavy elements formed in the universe?” Her experiments take place at radioactive beam facilities, such as FRIB at MSU, Argonne National Laboratory, and TRIUMF in Canada. From 2015-2019, she also served as the Associate Director for Education and Outreach at FRIB, leading the laboratory’s education, outreach, and diversity activities.

“Congratulations to Artemis for receiving this award,” said FRIB Laboratory Director Thomas Glasmacher. “Her commitment to inspiring others and her accomplishments are motivating, not only to all of us at the FRIB Laboratory, but also for those looking forward to careers in nuclear science.”

Spyrou is passionate about encouraging women in physics and participates in activities that help support women, in particular within the nuclear physics community. Spyrou advises students starting out in research to choose a topic they are passionate about and also choose to work with an advisor with whom they can connect and who will support them.

“Success means different things to each of us,” she said. “It has to align with our personal and professional goals. For me it’s to be in a position where I feel comfortable and confident, to feel that others value my opinion, to have the privilege to choose what I want to work on, and to be able to go home at the end of the day and spend time with my family.”

Spyrou said the award is even more special for her because it is from her home country, where most of her family and childhood friends still live. She said she was overwhelmed to see their joy and support. During her speech, she dedicated the award to her two daughters.

“I hope it shows them that they can achieve anything they want in life as long as they work hard and it’s really something they are passionate about,” she said. “The high visibility of such an award means that beyond the personal honor it's even more important that little girls around Cyprus might see this and feel that a career in nuclear science or any other science is within reach for them.”

Michigan State University (MSU) operates the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) as a user facility for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science (DOE-SC), supporting the mission of the DOE-SC Office of Nuclear Physics. Hosting what is designed to be the most powerful heavy-ion accelerator, FRIB enables scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes in order to better understand the physics of nuclei, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions, and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security, and industry.

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