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Four Faculty Members at the Institute for Advanced Study Awarded Inaugural Fundamental Physics Prize

Four Faculty Members Awarded Fundamental Physics Prize
July 31, 2012
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Transformative Scientific Contributions Recognized with $3 Million Prize from the Milner Foundation

Four out of nine recipients of the inaugural Fundamental Physics Prize of the Milner Foundation are Faculty members in the School of Natural Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study. Nima Arkani-Hamed, Juan Maldacena, Nathan Seiberg and Edward Witten have each been awarded $3 million for their significant and path-breaking contributions to fundamental physics.

 Other recipients include former Institute Members Maxim Kontsevich (1992–93 and 2002), Professor at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques, and Ashoke Sen (1996–98), Professor at the Harish-Chandra Research Institute. The other recipients are Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Alexei Kitaev of the California Institute of Technology and Andrei Linde of Stanford University. Each of the recipients will serve on the selection committee for future Fundamental Physics Prizes, which will be bestowed annually. The Prize was created by investor Yuri Milner in order to recognize transformative advances in the field and inspire interest in fundamental physics.

“These exceptional prizes are well-deserved recognition of the power of visionary ideas by daring individuals,” stated Robbert Dijkgraaf, Director of the Institute and Leon Levy Professor. “The Institute has a remarkable legacy in advancing our understanding of the fundamental laws of nature, and the work of these four current Faculty members illustrates the current strength and excellent future prospects of research in theoretical physics at the IAS. We wish to compliment Yuri Milner for his extraordinary generosity that we hope stimulates new generations of physicists.”

Edward Witten, Charles Simonyi Professor, added, “We were all thrilled and overwhelmed to have our work recognized in this way. Now we will have to redouble our efforts to make physics at the IAS as exciting as we can make it.”

Juan Maldacena was surprised to receive the award and said, “I am also very thankful to Yuri Milner and his appreciation of our work.” Nathan Seiberg stated, “I am most grateful to the Milner Foundation for this recognition. Yuri Milner’s commitment to supporting fundamental science is very impressive and is of incredible value in advancing physics.” Nima Arkani-Hamed noted that the award is “fantastic for the field,” since it “puts a spotlight on the subject of fundamental physics, which we are all striving to push forward.”

Each IAS Faculty member was cited by the Milner Foundation for broad and diverse contributions to fundamental physics, which have changed and invigorated the field over the past four decades. Arkani-Hamed was cited for his “original approaches to outstanding problems in particle physics, including the proposal of large extra dimensions, new theories for the Higgs boson, novel realizations of supersymmetry, theories for dark matter and the exploration of new mathematical structures in gauge theory scattering amplitudes.” Maldacena was cited for correlating gravitational physics in a spacetime and quantum field theory on the boundary of the spacetime, effectively demonstrating that “black holes and quantum mechanics are compatible, resolving the black hole information paradox.” His work also was recognized for providing “a useful tool for the study of strongly coupled quantum systems, giving insights into a range of problems from high temperature nuclear matter to high temperature superconductors.” Seiberg was chosen for his “major contributions to our understanding of quantum field theory and string theory,” and it was noted that his “exact analysis of supersymmetric quantum field theories led to deep new insights about their dynamics, with fundamental applications in physics and mathematics.” Witten was recognized for contributions across physics and mathematics, including his fundamental research into “non perturbative duality symmetries, models of particle physics derived from string theory, dark matter detection and the twistor-string approach to particle scattering amplitudes, as well as numerous applications of quantum field theory to mathematics.”

About the Milner Foundation and the Prizes

The Milner Foundation, established by Internet investor Yuri Milner, is dedicated to science and technology causes. A graduate of Moscow State University with an advanced degree in theoretical physics, Milner subsequently conducted research at the Institute of Physics in the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation is dedicated to advancing knowledge of the universe at the deepest level by awarding annual prizes for scientific breakthroughs, as well as communicating the excitement of fundamental physics to the public. Two categories of prizes will be awarded for past achievements in the field of fundamental physics, with the aim of providing the recipients with more freedom and opportunity to pursue even greater future accomplishments. The Fundamental Physics Prize recognizes transformative advances in the field, while the New Horizons in Physics Prizes are targeted at promising junior researchers. All prize recipients are invited to present public talks targeted at a general audience, on subjects ranging from the basics of modern physics to cutting-edge research. These lectures, together with supporting materials, will be made available to the public, allowing them to keep abreast of the latest developments in fundamental physics, guided by contemporary masters of the field.

About the Institute for Advanced Study

The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s leading centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. The Institute exists to encourage and support curiosity-driven research in the sciences and humanities—the original, often speculative thinking that produces advances in knowledge that change the way we understand the world. Work at the Institute takes place in four Schools: Historical Studies, Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Social Science. It provides for the mentoring of scholars by a permanent Faculty of approximately 30, and it ensures the freedom to undertake research that will make significant contributions in any of the broad range of fields in the sciences and humanities studied at the Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1930, is a private, independent academic institution located in Princeton, New Jersey. Its more than 6,000 former Members hold positions of intellectual and scientific leadership throughout the academic world. Thirty-three Nobel Laureates and 40 out of 56 Fields Medalists, as well as many winners of the Wolf and MacArthur prizes, have been affiliated with the Institute.