University of Rochester

This Year's Nobel Prize in Physics As Seen by a University of Rochester Pioneer in the Field

October 8, 2013

Professor Carl R. Hagen is one of six physicists who published three papers in 1964 (within months of each other) that independently suggested a mechanism by which particles obtain their mass. Two of the six physicists, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs, received the Nobel Prize on Tuesday morning for "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle." This fundamental particle is now most often called the Higgs Boson, and is a central part of the standard model of particle physics.

Reacting to the announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics, Hagen said:

"I couldn't have imagined 50 years ago, when I was working with my colleagues Gerald Guralnik and Tom Kibble on our paper, that society would spend billions of dollars and that thousands of scientists worldwide would be involved in the search for a particle and a mechanism that stem from those three papers published in 1964.

"I am very happy to see the recognition of the Swedish Academy for this area of work and want to offer my congratulations to Francois Englert and Peter Higgs. As my colleague Tom Kibble has said, it is no surprise that with the Nobel Prize unable to go to more than three people, the Academy felt unable to include my co-authors and me. But I am nonetheless very proud of the work we did, at how complete our explanation was, and how that has contributed to our understanding of how particles obtain mass."

He also described the experience of the press conference given last year by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (commonly known by its french initials, CERN), where the experiments searching for this elusive particle are conducted:

"After so many years, sitting in that auditorium at CERN in July 2012, it seemed that the confirmation so many people worldwide were waiting for had arrived. It was fantastic to share in that, in an atmosphere Gerald Guralnik likened to a football rally.

"Until I went to college, I wasn't aware that one could make a living out of being a physicist and it has been wonderful to be able to do this. We certainly need to ensure that society continues to support scientific research. I encourage young people who love science, to persevere at it as it can be a truly enriching endeavor."

Hagen has been at the University for 50 years, where he continues to teach (two courses every Spring semester) and pursue his research in high-energy theoretical physics. Rochester has a long history in this field. In 1950, Rochester held the first International Conference on High Energy Physics, bringing together leading theorists and experimentalists in the field of particle physics. Now held throughout the world, it is still known as "the Rochester Conference."

Hagen, originally from Chicago, received his S. B. and S. M. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1958 and his Ph. D. from M.I.T. in 1962. He then took a research associate position at the University of Rochester in 1963 and was made an Assistant Professor of Physics in 1965. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1968, and to Professor in 1974.