Arie Bodek, Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, received the 2004 W. K. H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics from the American Physical Society, the nation’s top association of physicists.
This prestigious prize in high-energy physics consists of a certificate acknowledging Bodek’s accomplishments and a $5,000 cash prize. In a field with thousands of scientists working on different experiments, individual recognition is extremely rare.
Bodek joins fellow UR professor of Physics and Astronomy Edward H. Thorndike in receiving the prestigious award, making Columbia University and UR the only two universities with two recipients of the prize.
Bodek, who was extremely pleased, could not believe the recognition. “I got it via e-mail and I read the e-mail several times before I got used to it,” Bodek said. “I was very happy.”
Bodek earned both his Bachelor of Science and doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved to Rochester in 1977 as an assistant professor at UR, becoming a full professor ten years later. Since 1999, Bodek has been the Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
Bodek started his research in experimental particle physics as a follow-up to his doctoral thesis. The thesis was part of tests, conducted by Bodek’s thesis advisors, that established that protons and neutrons consisted of particles called ‘quarks.’ Bodek’s thesis advisors jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1990.
In his research, Bodek has always been fascinated by the structure and size of electrons.
“An electron is like a mathematical point,” Bodek said. “It is the smallest thing there is. But the closer you examine it, the more it looks smaller than it did the last time.” This has been the main motivation for his continued study in this field.
When speaking about particle physics, Bodek describes it more as a fun activity than as a constant job.
“It is more like a hobby that I keep coming back to,” Bodek explained. “I don’t work on it all the time.”
Bodek’s advances in the field are significant as they help scientists understand the composition of all matter surrounding us, and he feels there is still much that can be learned from the area.
“Particle physics is about always trying to discover new things and forces,” he said. He may follow the previous six W. K. H. Panfosky prizewinners, who have all received the Nobel Prize in Physics. However, Bodek is quick to make his objectives clear.
“If the goal is to get a Nobel Prize, most scientists will fail,” he said. “No, it is definitely to discover new things and gain knowledge. People like solving problems, puzzles or mysteries. Some like solving crosswords, while others play video games. Scientific mysteries, however, are different because nobody knows the answer until you solve it!”
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