December 7, 2011

There can be long discussions about how society rewards people. One form of reward is the pay one takes home in exchange for work done. In fact, for most people that is the most relevant reward. But there are others.

In mediaeval times the King might reward a subject with a title, make him a knight, have people address him with the honorific "Sir." This kind of system persists in some countries; the United Kingdom has a fairly complex system, some of which harks back to the days of the British Empire. So as well as having barons and knights, they have different orders (think religious orders). There is the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and at higher rank, the Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Recent examples of scientists close to our field who have been awarded the CBE are Lyn Evans, the leader of the Large Hadron Collider project, and Jenny Thomas, a prominent leader of neutrino experimentation.

Closer to home, the American Physical Society makes a small fraction (0.5%) of its membership "APS Fellows" in recognition of contributions to physics and eminence in the field. Each year, we celebrate the new fellows who are either Jefferson Lab staff or are associated with our programs. In fact, the web page was recently posted and so far we see Jefferson Lab staff members Harut Avagyan, Robert Edwards and Rolf Ent are on the list; congratulations to them.

We normally consider the Nobel Prize for Physics to be at the pinnacle of the prize hierarchy. The APS Bonner Prize, won by Bob McKeown, the lab’s Deputy Director of Science and Technology, is another prestigious prize awarded by the American Physical Society in nuclear physics. However, there also are prizes awarded by the Department of Energy. DOE Early Career Awards were won this past year by Jefferson Lab scientiststs Jozef Dudek and Pavel Evtushenko.

Because accelerators represent much of what we do at Jefferson Lab, it was appropriate that Slava Derbenev won the APS 2010 Wilson Prize (R.R. Wilson was the first Director of Fermilab after an illustrious career at Cornell University, and before that in the Manhattan Project). Of course, there is a name which is associated with United States accelerators more than perhaps any other, that is Ernest Orlando Lawrence. Lawrence’s career is noted for his invention of the cyclotron, and with a variant, the Calutron, that made a seminal contribution to the enrichment of uranium in the Manhattan Project. A couple of weeks ago, the E. O. Lawrence Awards for 2011 were announced by DOE. To emphasize the importance of this award, let me point out that past winners include Nobel Prize winners, such as Richard Feynman and one of 2011 Nobel laureates in physics, Saul Perlmutter.

There is a story I heard from one of this year’s Lawrence recipients, that when he was told that Stephen Chu would be calling him, he thought it was a scam. But that when he received a second message saying that Secretary Chu was too busy so, Director of the Office of Science Bill Brinkman would be calling him, he realized that it was for real.

On finally receiving the call, Matt Poelker of Jefferson Lab learned that he had received  a Lawrence Award "for leading a transformative effort to achieve production of electron beams possessing remarkable properties, advancing parity-violation and polarization-transfer experiments."

We are extremely proud of all our award winners; they do the laboratory and their colleagues proud. Congratulations, Matt!