Masatoshi Koshiba, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, became the fifth UR alumnus to win a Nobel Prize Tuesday. Koshiba has a quarter share of the prize in physics for his work in detecting subatomic particles called neutrinos.
“All I can say is I’m so happy,” Koshiba told reporters after the announcement. “This wonderful outcome was only possible because of my young assistants’ hard work.”
Koshiba shares half of the $1 million prize with Raymond Davis, Jr., a neutrino scientist from the University of Pennsylvania. Riccardo Giacconi, of the Associated Universities, Inc., was awarded the other half of the prize.
A 1955 doctoral graduate of the physics department, Koshiba is best known for his work on the Kamiokande detector?a giant underground detector filled with water that catches neutrinos emitted from the stars. In 1997, Koshiba’s research team was the first to detect particles from a supernova.
Though neutrinos were previously known to exist, Koshiba and his team were the first to prove that they had mass and that their nature can change on their way from the sun to the earth.
According to Associate Professor of Physics Kevin McFarland, Koshiba’s work has influenced current research being done at UR. “The reason Koshiba and Davis were awarded the Nobel Prize is because their research has spawned a new field of study in neutrinos,” he said. “That sets the tone for research now going on in the UR Department of Physics.”
Koshiba returned to UR in 2000 to receive the Distinguished Scholar Award from the university. He had been receiving international recognition for his work, most notably the Wolf Award from the state of Israel?a precursor to the Nobel Prize ? and UR did not want to be left behind. “It was pretty clear to us that he would be deserving of the Nobel Prize,” Dean of Research and Graduate Studies Paul Slattery said. “We wanted to be in front of the system, rather than reactive to it.”
McFarland said that he believes successful graduates such as Koshiba can only make the physics department stronger. “Part of what builds the reputation of the department is the quality of the graduates,” he said.
The prizes will be officially presented on Dec. 10 in Sweden.
Slattery views this award as evidence that the physics department’s active recruitment of international students pays off. “The college is very proud of the department,” Slattery said. “Koshiba represents the fruits of having an international vision.”
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