2 Brookhaven Lab physicists receive Presidential Early Career Award

December 19, 2008

UPTON, NY -- Two physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory -- Mickey Chiu and Hooman Davoudiasl -- were among 68 researchers honored at a White House ceremony today as recipients of the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

The Presidential Award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers who are beginning their independent careers. Nine federal departments and agencies support the honorees, and DOE's Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) provided funding for the work of eight of the award recipients. Each Presidential Award winner received a citation, a plaque, and a commitment for continued funding of their work from their agency for up to five years.

"These awards recognize some of the outstanding people affiliated with the Department of Energy whose extraordinary talents are discovering the solutions to power and secure America's future," Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. "Each honoree has made a unique contribution to fulfilling the Department's mission and to enhancing scientific knowledge at large. I am proud of the awardees and appreciative of their efforts."

Chiu and Davoudiasl were among seven DOE scientists honored at the White House who were also honored with DOE's Office of Science Early Career Scientist and Engineer Award at a ceremony at DOE headquarters in Washington, DC. An NNSA engineer was also presented with an award from her agency at the ceremony.

Chiu performs experiments at Brookhaven Lab's world-class accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), to study many different aspects of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), a theory that describes the interactions of subnuclear particles. Chiu studies these interactions at a RHIC detector known as PHENIX, which is used for research by more than 500 physicists from throughout the world.

Chiu, whose research is funded by DOE's Office of Nuclear Physics within the Office of Science, led the development of a PHENIX upgrade, which has extended the detector's range so that more particles from RHIC's collisions of polarized protons -- protons spinning in the same direction -- are captured. The upgrade enables many unique measurements in PHENIX that might lead to a richer understanding of the substructure of protons.

Chiu was also honored for mentoring graduate students in building advanced instrumentation.

Chiu earned a B.A. in physics from Bowdoin College in 1996 and a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2004. From 1998 to the present, he has been a member of the PHENIX Collaboration. He went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a two-year term as a postdoctoral research associate in 2004, and, in 2006, he came to Brookhaven Lab as an assistant scientist. He was promoted to associate scientist in 2008.

Funded by DOE's Office of High Energy Physics within the Office of Science, Davoudiasl's research is concerned with new theories that go beyond the Standard Model of particle physics, a theory that explains microscopic particle interactions. Mounting evidence from data suggests that this framework needs to be extended. One theoretical problem -- often called the "hierarchy problem" -- is the puzzling extreme weakness of gravity compared to the subatomic forces governed by the Higgs boson. The Higgs, which is the only missing part of the Standard Model, provides masses for fundamental particles within the theory's framework.

Models with extra dimensions have been proposed to address the hierarchy problem. One class of models employs a warped fifth dimension and predicts that a sequence of particles with ever-increasing masses should appear, possibly within the reach of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Such a "tower" of particles, if observed, would represent echoes of gravity in the warped extra dimension.

In addition, Davoudiasl was honored for providing guest lectures for graduate students as well as organizing international conferences.

Davoudiasl earned a B.S. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1993, an M.S. in physics in 1995 and Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1998 from the California Institute of Technology. In 1998, he became a research associate at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and, in 2001, he joined the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, as a postdoctoral researcher. In 2004 he became an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and, in 2006, he joined Brookhaven as an assistant physicist. He was promoted to associate physicist in 2008.
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One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization. Visit Brookhaven Lab's electronic newsroom for links, news archives, graphics, and more: http://www.bnl.gov/newsroom

NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Mickey Chiu lives in Forest Hills, NY, and Hooman Davoudiasl lives in Sound Beach, NY.

DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

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