The exploding star, nearly 4 billion light years from us, is about 570 billion times brighter than our sun.
Pope Francis commended students from 22 countries for their scientific collaboration, calling their work "a fitting and effective means for promoting peace and justice."
Rachel Somerville received $500,000 in research support for five years from the Simons Foundation.
The Rutgers students are among 283 undergraduates honored.
The observations give scientists new insights into how black holes and the galaxies that host them evolve.
Modern telescopes peer to the farthest reaches of space, revealing how galaxies looked as they took shape billions of years ago.