Illinois Tech Physics Shares in 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

A number of Illinois Tech physics people are among the winners of the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, which was awarded on November 8 to five global teams that conduct neutrino oscillation experiments.

A $3 million prize will be shared among 1,377 scientists on the five experiments for “the fundamental discovery and exploration of neutrino oscillations, revealing a new frontier beyond, and possibly far beyond, the standard model of particle physics.”

The Illinois Tech people include:

  • Emily Draeger (PHYS Ph.D. ’14), now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (worked on Daya Bay with Christopher White, vice provost for academic affairs and professor of physics)
  • Brandon Seilhan (PHYS Ph.D. ’11), a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory (worked with White on Daya Bay)
  • White,  member of the Daya Bay publication committee and chair of the Institutional Board
  • Bryce Littejohn, assistant professor of physics, whose Ph.D. thesis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison presented Daya Bay’s first oscillation measurement
  • Yagmur Torun, associate professor of physics (Daya Bay)
  • Karin Gilje, currently a postdoctoral student of Littlejohn’s (K2K/T2K)

In October, Takaaki Kajita of Tokyo University and Arthur McDonald of Queen’s University in Ontario won the Nobel Prize in physics for discovering neutrino oscillations. The Breakthrough Prize in Physics honored Kajita’s and McDonald’s full teams (Super-Kamiokande Collaboration and Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) plus three others that have done supporting work in this area: Daya Bay, KamLAND Collaboration, and K2K/T2K.

The Breakthrough Prizes were created by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Ma of Alibaba, Sergei Brin of Google, and others as a kind of “Oscars of Science.” This year, seven prizes were given totaling $21.9 million in a ceremony broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.