IOP medals: from particles to the cosmos

Studies at the smallest and the largest scales in the universe are among the areas of research recognized in the 2012 awards from the UK’s Institute of Physics.

The Dirac Medal for outstanding contributions to theoretical physics goes to Graham Ross, University of Oxford, "for his theoretical work in developing both the Standard Model of fundamental particles and forces and theories beyond the Standard Model that have led to many new insights into the origins and nature of the universe". In a career spanning 40 years, Ross has consistently worked at the frontiers of the subject and made many seminal contributions. He was, for example, a pioneer of supersymmetry theory and phenomenology, and more recently he has developed fundamental theories of neutrino mass and mixing parameters.

A fellow theoretician, David Lyth of Lancaster University, receives the Hoyle Medal and Prize "for his contributions to particle cosmology, in particular to the origin of the structure of the universe". This prize is awarded for distinguished research in astrophysics, gravitational physics or cosmology. Cosmology is also recognized in the awarding of the Isaac Newton medal this year to Martin Rees (Lord Rees of Ludlow) of Cambridge University. This medal is awarded regardless of subject area, background or nationality, for outstanding contributions to physics.

On the experimental side, the Rutherford Medal and Prize for distinguished research in nuclear physics or nuclear technology goes to Peter Butler of the University of Liverpool. He is honoured for his "outstanding work in the field of experimental nuclear physics and his dynamic contributions to the future direction of the field". Last, the Kelvin Medal and Prize, for outstanding contribution to public engagement within physics, goes to Graham Farmelo of Churchill College, Cambridge. He is cited in particular for his biography of Paul Dirac (CERN Courier September 2009 p39).

EPS announces Lize Meitner Prize winners

The European Physical Society (EPS), through its Nuclear Physics Division, has awarded the Lize Meitner Prize 2012 jointly to Karlheinz Langanke of GSI and TU Darmstadt, and to Friedrich-Karl Thielemann of the University of Basel, for "their seminal contributions to the description of nuclear processes in astrophysical environments that have changed our modern understanding of stellar evolution, supernovae explosions and nucleosynthesis". Their work represents a bridge between the nuclear-physics and astrophysics communities and has decisively contributed to shaping the research programme at current and future radioactive-ion-beam facilities.

The Lize Meitner Prize is given every two years for outstanding work in the fields of experimental, theoretical or applied nuclear science. Langanke and Thielemann will receive the award in a special session at the 25th International Nuclear Physics Divisional Conference of the EPS, on 20 September.

International meeting eyes the future

The International (Winter) Meeting on Fundamental Physics (IMFP), held in Spain every year since 1973, celebrated its 40th edition when 140 researchers from national and foreign research institutes gathered at the Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual in Benasque on 24 May – 3 June.

The idea behind the IMFP grew out of the aim to foster collaboration among the members of the Spanish scientific community and to explore possible mechanisms for the sustainable development and consolidation of high-energy physics, which it was felt at the time urgently required the return of Spain to CERN – after the country’s withdrawal in 1969 – as well as participation in research programmes at other large international laboratories. Funded by the Institute of Nuclear Studies of the Junta de Energía Nuclear (JEN), with strong support from CERN, the IMFP was launched as the result of an initiative by Manuel Aguilar and Juan Antonio Rubio of JEN and the CIEMAT research centre in Madrid, Lucien Montanet of CERN and Francisco Ynduráin of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

One of the main goals was to set up a forum at which prestigious researchers, mostly from abroad, would present the most relevant scientific advances in the field to the young and much reduced community of Spanish physicists working in the discipline. Forty years on, IMFP has largely met its initial goals and become both a reference at the national level and a widely appreciated international event.

Discussions took place at one of the earliest meetings to identify the most effective ways to facilitate Spain’s return to CERN, which finally happened in 1983. Initially, JEN was in charge of the organization and funding of the IMFP series. After the return of Spain to CERN and thanks to the steering plan for high-energy physics that was approved in 1983 – two important events in which JEN played an essential catalytic role – newly formed experimental groups acquired a growing visibility and responsibility in the organization of IMFP. As a result, the meeting moved round Spain to take place in most of the regions that host research teams in particle, astroparticle and nuclear physics.

Appropriately, the 40th IMFP was held at the Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual, which honours the memory of the distinguished theoretical physicist Pedro Pascual, who was highly instrumental in the development of science in Spain and in particular basic research during the last decades of the 20th century. The programme included a workshop on flavour physics and on the relevance and opportunity of the "super" B factories that are under construction or under discussion, together with sessions on neutrino physics, physics at the Canfranc Underground Laboratory, cosmic rays and ultrahigh-energy gamma rays, dark matter and dark energy, gravitational waves and physics at Fermilab’s Tevatron and at CERN’s LHC.

The future of the LHC and its ambitious experimental programme and the scientific perspectives of the electron–positron colliders under consideration (the International Linear Collider and the Compact Linear Collider studies) were the subject of long scientific sessions of great interest. The last part of the meeting was devoted to presenting the plans to develop the European Strategy for Particle Physics and to assessing the situation in Spain (excellent from the scientific point of view, but worrying in terms of the evolution of resources) and the possible contributions from the Spanish scientific community.

This meeting was extremely well organized by the Instituto de Fisica Corpuscular (IFIC), a joint centre of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and the University of Valencia, under the efficient leadership of Francisco Botella, Juan Fuster and Carmen García. It was funded by the National Centre for Particle, Astroparticle and Nuclear Physics (CPAN), the National Programme for Particle Physics, IFIC, CIEMAT, the Consolider project Multidark and the Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual.


Google Science Fair winner Shree Bose could not have picked a better time to visit CERN. Judges chose her as the top young scientist out of more than 10,000 submissions from 13- to 18-year-old students all over the world. Part of her prize was a trip to CERN and she was there on 4 July, the day the laboratory announced the discovery of a Higgs-like particle ((4 July 2012: a day to remember).

Bose’s prizewinning project demonstrated a link between a certain enzyme and drug-resistance in ovarian cancer cells, as well as a way to counter the effect. She did the research the summer before her junior year of high school under the supervision of Alakananda Basu at the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth. In August, Bose will go to Harvard University to study cellular and molecular biology.