COES faculty share top European physics prize

Professors from the Louisiana Tech University Physics program have received top honors as collaborators on the high-energy particle physics project D0.

The European Physical Society (EPS) has awarded its highest prize for research in the area of High Energy Particle Physics to the Collider Detector Facility and the D0 Detector Facility (D0) scientific collaborations, for their 1995 discovery and subsequent measurement of the top quark. Among the recipients from the D0 experiment are Dr. Lee Sawyer, Charles and Newellyn Spruell Professor of physics at Louisiana Tech; Dr. Markus Wobsich, associate professor of physics; and Dr. Z.D. Greenwood, professor emeritusof physics. Sawyer, then working for the University of Texas at Arlington, was part of the momentous top quark discovery, which was later cited in the 1999 Nobel Prize for Physics. After coming to Louisiana Tech, Sawyer’s research group, which included Greenwood and later Wobisch, took part in the precision measurement of the properties of the newly discovered particle.

“We are honored to be part of the collaborations recognized by this award from EPS, which also honors the many postdocs, graduate and undergraduate students who have worked with the Louisiana Tech group,” Sawyer said of the honor.

Quarks are the fundamental constituent of all matter. The lightest types of quarks, labelled “up” and “down”, make up the protons and neutrons which then form the nuclei of atoms. Nature also contains heavier, short-lived version of these particles. The heaviest of these is the top quark. Its discovery was heralded as one of the most significant in particle physics, and the D0 discovery paper “Observation of the Top Quark” has been cited over 2,900 times.

The Louisiana Tech group worked on the D0 project from 1997 until the Fermilab Tevatron accelerator ceased operation in 2011. Group members Sawyer and Wobisch, along with former graduate student Scott Atkins, are still members of the collaboration, which produces physics publications based on the data previously recorded.

“The discovery of the top quark, like the discovery of the Higgs boson, will have a huge impact on many fields within physics,” Dr. Hisham Hegab, dean of the College of Engineering and Science said. “I am pleased to see that these research efforts by Drs. Sawyer, Wobsich and Greenwood and their teams are being honored. I’m grateful for their innovation and dedication to both high-energy physics and to Louisiana Tech.”

The EPS High Energy Particle Physics Prize is awarded every two years. The Louisiana Tech group was also part of a previous award in 2013, recognizing the ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid experiment for their discovery of the Higgs boson at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) Large Hadron Collider. You can view all 2019 European Physical Society awards on the organization website.