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Dec. 13, 2001

Brookhaven Physicist Nicholas Samios Awarded Pontecorvo Prize

UPTON, NY — Nicholas Samios, a senior physicist and former director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been named the 2001 recipient of the prestigious Bruno Pontecorvo Prize by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) in Dubna, Moscow. The prize, awarded annually since 1995, recognizes “the most significant investigations in elementary particle physics,” as acknowledged by the international scientific community.

The award recognizes Samios for his contributions both as a researcher in elementary particle physics, particularly neutrino physics, and as a scientific administrator. It will be presented at the 91st session of the JINR Scientific Council in Dubna on January 18, 2002, where Samios will deliver a talk on his work.

“I am honored to be a recipient of this award, and especially pleased that it recognizes the important contributions to neutrino physics,” Samios said.

As a researcher, Samios made many of the particle discoveries that have helped define and lead to the acceptance of the “Standard Model” of particle physics, the currently accepted theory that explains all known particle interactions. In particular, he is noted for the discovery of the phi meson and the omega minus hyperon, crucial elements of delineating the symmetry of hadrons, which ultimately led to the quark model of elementary particles, now a pillar of the Standard Model.

Samios also made significant contributions through a decade-long study of neutrino interactions, both at Brookhaven and at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, including the discovery of the charmed lambda (the first charmed baryon observed), and early measurements of neutrino electron elastic scattering and limits on neutrino oscillations.

As Director of Brookhaven National Laboratory from 1982 through 1997, Samios led the effort to build the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, the world’s newest facility for nuclear physics research. Theoretical physicists had predicted that particle accelerators capable of colliding heavy atomic nuclei could produce a new state of matter known as quark-gluon plasma. In this state, the constituent quarks that make up protons and neutrons — and the gluons that hold the quarks together — would, for the first time since the dawn of the universe, exist in an unconfined state amenable to study. Under Samios’s vision and direction, Brookhaven built RHIC to perform these experiments. The collider became operational in 2000, and is already producing interesting physics results.

Nicholas Samios received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Columbia University in 1953 and 1957, respectively. He first came to Brookhaven as a summer student in 1952, and joined the Laboratory as an assistant physicist in 1959. He advanced to senior physicist by 1968, served as chairman of the Laboratory’s Physics Department from 1975 to 1981, Deputy Director for High-Energy and Nuclear Physics from 1981 to 1982, and Brookhaven’s Director from 1982 to 1997. Since 1997, he has been a Distinguished Senior Scientist, and since 1998, Deputy Director of the RIKEN/BNL Research Center — a research center at Brookhaven that is funded primarily by the Japanese RIKEN laboratory to exploit both the theoretical and experimental physics potential of RHIC. Since 1970, he has also been an adjunct professor in the Physics Department at Columbia University.

The JINR established the Bruno Pontecorvo Prize to commemorate prominent scientist and academician B. M. Pontecorvo. Pontecorvo, who is widely considered the father of experimental neutrino physics, was born in Italy in 1914 and participated in many ground-breaking physics experiments there, as well as in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Russia. He died in Dubna, Russia in 1993. Each year since 1995, the Pontecorvo Prize has been awarded, usually to an individual scientist, through a contest held by the JINR. Winners are given a certificate and a monetary award.

Note to local editors: Nicholas Samios lives in Belle Terre, New York.

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.