University of Rochester

Physicist Receives Highest Award in Particle Research

November 24, 2003

Arie Bodek, professor and chair of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, has been awarded the 2004 W. K. H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics for his many years of extraordinary physics research. The American Physical Society, which presented the award, noted Bodek’s experimental work toward understanding the most elemental composition of matter, citing his “broad, sustained, and insightful contributions to elucidating the structure of the nucleon, using a wide variety of probes, tools and methods at many laboratories.”

“I’m very honored to receive this award,” says Bodek. “The structure of the nucleon has been a compelling question to the physics community, and this research has been dear to my heart. I’m also proud to be the second person from our department to receive this award.” In 1999, Edward Thorndike, professor of physics and astronomy, was also named a Panofsky winner. Columbia University and University of Rochester are the only two universities to claim two Panofsky Prize winners.

Since 1970, Bodek has been actively involved in experiments at high energy particle laboratories around the world. Bodek’s research has revealed details of the structure of protons and neutrons (known as nucleons), which make up the atomic nucleus. His important contribution has been to initiate new experiments and cross-analyzing the results of different kinds of experiments. When two particles collide at very high speeds they penetrate one another, and their components either scatter like billiard balls or recombine into other particles. By capturing the energetic signature of the particles emerging from the collisions, scientists gather information about the components inside the nucleons and the forces by which those components interact.

Early experiments in which Bodek took part as a graduate student examined the way a beam of electrons—point particles, with no internal structure—interacted with stationary protons. This research revealed the then-surprising fact that protons were made up of another class of point particles, known as quarks. Researchers using current particle accelerators to learn more about quarks can collide one beam of high-speed protons into another, producing many quark-quark interactions at once. To interpret the complex patterns of energetic matter emerging from these collisions, these scientists need to understand how the quarks move and interact within each proton. Instead of dedicating his entire career to a single type of particle accelerator, Bodek designed experiments for different laboratories throughout the world. As a result, his analysis has focused on discovering the necessary consistencies and correlations between different kinds of particle data, allowing him to explain how quarks structure themselves inside a proton.

“Arie is a veritable dynamo—besides chairing our department, he has a very strong program at CERN, Fermilab, and at the Jefferson Lab,” says Thomas Ferbel, professor of physics and astronomy.

Bodek is also highly active in physics education, science outreach activities, and in efforts to increase the number of underrepresented groups in science and engineering. He developed the physics department’s teaching assistant training program in the 1980’s, and co-founded the Pre-College Experience in Physics program for high school girls in 1994. He has also developed several interdisciplinary programs under the Department of Education’s GAANN grants for graduate students, as well as two site projects under the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. One of these includes a component providing Research Experience for High School Teachers, following Bodek’s involvement in the department’s PARTICLE program for high school teachers. In 1998, he shared the University of Rochester’s Goergen Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Learning in The College, with Priscilla Auchincloss, Lynne H. Orr, and Connie Jones, for the Women in Science and Engineering Program

Bodek received his bachelor’s degree and doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For his doctorate, he worked with Henry Kendall and Jerome Friedman in experiments that provided evidence for the quark structure of matter. Kendall, Friedman, and Taylor later shared the 1990 Nobel Prize in physics for these experiments. In 1977, Bodek joined the University as an assistant professor in physics and became a full professor 10 years later. He has served as chair of the department of physics and astronomy since 1999.

The Panofsky Prize consists of $5,000 and a certificate, which will be presented at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver, Colo., in May of 2004.