It’s been a busy month for the Middlebury Institute’s Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress. First he learned that an international research team he had been part of won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. Then he and his wife, Institute professor Heekyeong Lee, became parents for the first time. And then, just when it seemed like life might be on the verge of settling back into some kind of normal rhythm, he learned that the same international team of physicists will now also share in the Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics.
“I was told on Friday by the leader of our team to check our e-mail promptly at 6:00 p.m. Pacific time. I knew that it would be a nice surprise!” said Dalnoki-Veress, who is scientist-in-residence at the Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and an adjunct professor in the Institute’s Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program.
The Breakthrough Prize is a set of international awards designed to reward and promote scientific achievement in three categories: life sciences, mathematics, and “fundamental physics.” The Breakthrough Prize was founded by a group of technology industry CEOs including Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, and Russian entrepreneur—and physicist—Yuri Milner.
“Breakthrough Prize laureates are making fundamental discoveries about the universe, life and the mind,” said Milner. “These fields of investigation are advancing at an exponential pace, yet the biggest questions remain to be answered.” As noted in today’s New York Times, Milner established the Prize in 2012 based on his belief that physicists should be celebrated like rock stars.
Winners of the Breakthrough Prize receive a $3 million award. In this particular case, Dalnoki-Veress was part of one of five teams (the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory team) totaling 1,300 physicists, each of whom will receive a small share of the award. “I will get a tiny portion of the funds,” said Dalnoki-Veress, but a hundred percent of the pride of having played a part in such a widely-hailed research effort.
For more on the science behind the winning project, which focused on examining the properties of neutrinos to improve our understanding of the building blocks of matter, see our previous story on Dr. Dalnoki-Veress.