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Sept. 25, 2001

Samuel Aronson Named Chair of Brookhaven Lab’s Physics Department  

UPTON, NY — Samuel Aronson has been named chair of the Physics Department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, effective September 5, following the untimely death of his predecessor, Michael Murtagh, in July.

Brookhaven’s Physics Department has a staff of over 300, and an annual budget of over $40 million, with more than 80 percent of funding supplied by the Department of Energy. Research in the department primarily focuses on investigating the structure and behavior of subatomic particles. Scientists specializing in nuclear physics, high energy physics, solid state physics and physics theory design and perform basic research in an attempt to better understand the fundamental laws of matter.

Aronson commented, “I am proud of the accomplishments of the Physics Department. Our research is flourishing, and I think Mike Murtagh did a tremendous service for the department. I hope to maintain the direction he set.”

The Physics Department operates three of the four major experiments at Brookhaven’s newest and largest accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). Known as BRAHMS, PHENIX and STAR, these experiments are aimed at finding quark-gluon plasma, a form of hot, dense matter that has not existed since moments after the Big Bang. About 1,000 physicists from around the world perform research at RHIC.

Other projects in the Physics Department include participating in the design, construction and operation of a large detector called ATLAS, to be installed in an accelerator at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. Known as the Large Hadron Collider, the accelerator will be the highest energy facility for particle-physics research in the world and is expected to be operating by 2006.

Brookhaven physicists also are working on an experiment known as D-Zero at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. This experiment involves studying a subatomic particle known as the top quark, which had been discovered by the D-Zero experiment in 1995. Aronson had aided in the design and construction of that experiment.

Aronson expects that the National Science Foundation will fund a proposed project known a RSVP, for Rare Symmetry Violating Processes, which would be overseen by the Physics Department. The two experiments advanced in this proposal would require creating new, intense beams of subatomic particles at the Laboratory’s accelerator, the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron. Both experiments have the potential to explore new physics phenomena and to change physicists’ understanding of the fundamental properties of matter.

A native of Huntington, Long Island, Aronson earned his B.S. in physics from Columbia University in 1964, and his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University, in 1968. From 1968 to 1972, he worked at the University of Chicago’s Enrico Fermi Institute for Nuclear Studies as a research associate. He then moved to the University of Wisconsin, where he was on the faculty until 1977.

Aronson joined Brookhaven’s Accelerator Department in 1978 as an associate physicist, and was named physicist in 1979. He joined the Physics Department in 1982, was appointed associate chair of the department in 1987, and deputy chair in 1988. In 1991, Aronson gave up this position and, as a senior physicist, served as head of the PHENIX group and the PHENIX detector project during the construction of RHIC, a challenge he successfully completed before he assumed his current position. Earlier this year, Aronson was named a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

NOTE TO LOCAL EDITORS: Samuel Aronson is a resident of Poquott, NY.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies. Brookhaven also builds and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government scientists. The Laboratory is managed by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited liability company founded by Stony Brook University and Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology organization.