UC Berkeley News



19 July 2006

Saul Perlmutter wins Shaw Prize for work on expansion of universe

Berkeley physicist Saul Perlmutter has been awarded the 2006 Shaw Prize in Astronomy for his role in discovering that the universe is expanding faster than previously thought.

Saul Perlmutter

The professor of physics, an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and leader of the international Supernova Cosmology Project, shares the $1 million prize with Adam Riess of NASA's Space Telescope Science Institute and Brian Schmidt of Australia's Mount Stromlo Observatory. All three are being recognized for their leadership of two teams, the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-z Supernova Search, which in 1998 reported the acceleration of the universe.

Riess was a Berkeley postdoc with campus astronomy professor Alex Filippenko when he made the discovery for which he is being honored. He was a prominent member of Filippenko's High-z Supernova Search, an international team of astronomers. Riess produced the bulk of the analysis for the team's study.

Filippenko's supernova experiment began in the mid-1990s when he and numerous colleagues (including Perlmutter's Shaw co-honoree, Schmidt) began searching for Type 1a supernovas at large distances and measuring the speed at which they are receding from us. Type 1a supernovas are exploding white dwarfs - burnt-out, Sun-like stars at the end of their lives - and by measuring their apparent brightness, scientists can calculate how far away they are. In a universe that is slowing down, distant supernovas - ones that exploded billions of years in the past - should be moving faster than nearer and more recent supernovas. But Filippenko's group and Perlmutter's LBNL group reported just the opposite, an announcement that Berkeley astrophysicist Richard Muller told The New York Times in 1998 is "one of the top astronomy discoveries of the century, certainly of the decade. It's worthy of a Nobel Prize."

The Shaw Prizes, called the Nobel Prizes of the East, have been granted annually since 2004 in the fields of astronomy, medicine and life sciences, and mathematical sciences. The prizes were established by Run Run Shaw, a Hong Kong motion picture and television producer.

The prizes will be presented in a ceremony in Hong Kong on Sept. 12.

Hellman Family Faculty Fund

Established by F. Warren Hellman in 1995, the Hellman Family Faculty Fund supports the research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their research. The maximum award is $50,000. To be eligible for an award, assistant professors are normally expected to have served at least two years at that rank.

Fifteen awards, totaling $500,000, have been announced for 2006. The recipients are: Ernesto Dal Bo, business; Phillip Geissler, chemistry; Todd Hickey, classics; Richard Allen, earth and planetary science; Dan Klein, electrical engineering and computer sciences; Justin Brashares, environmental science, policy, and management; George Bentley, integrative biology; Leslea Hlusko, integrative biology; Anne Joseph, law; Lynn Nichols, linguistics; Jan Liphardt, physics; Ashvin Vishwanath, physics; Darlene Francis, psychology and public health; Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, psychology; and Jonathan Wallis, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and psychology.

Regents Junior Faculty Fellowships

For 2006, these fellowships, which offer summer salary awards in the amount of $5,000 for junior-faculty use on a proposed project, are going to: Waverly Ding, business; Ann Keller, public health; Sheila Patek, integrative biology; Gautam Premnath, English; Dylan Sailor, classics; Andrew Shanken, architecture; and David Winickoff, environmental science, policy, and management.

Library Prize for Undergraduate Research

This prize, which won the campus Educational Initiative Award last year, recognizes undergraduate researchers and their faculty and GSI supporters. The winners for 2006 - selected from a pool of 60 submissions, a 50 percent increase over 2005 - include two freshmen. The winners and their topics are these:

Freshman Breeanna Fujio, for a paper on the Salton Sea written for a class taught by Professor James Casey and Bancroft Library staff Peter Hanff and Davd Farrell; pre-law student Suzan Sabyl Cohen, who wrote a legal-research paper for poltical-science professor Michael Goldstein while participating in the Washington Program; senior Wael El-Nachef, who wrote on carbon-monoxide exposures in waterpipe smoking for public-health Professor S. Katharine Hammond; Camille Pannu, for a senior honors thesis examining the social, political, and economic factors underlying the experiences of two ethnic-minority communities in the United Kingdom, written for political economy of industrialized societies lecturer Alan Karras; Andrew Strauss, who studied colonial schools in French Morocco in the 1920s as a lens for French assumptions about Islamic education, then wrote a paper for history Professor Peter Sahlins; and freshman Andrina Tran, who wrote about the 1959 "Kitchen Debate" between then-U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev for history lecturer Jennifer Burns and GSI Sean McEnroe.

Three honorable-mention winners wrote papers on Ben Jonson's punctuation, the Lebanese civil war, and a 1922 Ku Klux Klan raid in Inglewood.

For details about award eligibility and application, visit www.lib.berkeley.edu/researchprize.