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Brookhaven Lab Physicist Awarded Robert R. Wilson Prize

Published on October 13, 2008 at 11:40 PM

Satoshi Ozaki, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been selected as the recipient of the American Physical Society's 2009 Robert R. Wilson Prize. Named to honor the first director of DOE's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the $5,000 prize recognizes and encourages outstanding achievement in the physics of particle accelerators. Ozaki will receive the award at the 2009 Particle Accelerator Conference in Vancouver, Canada, in May.

Ozaki is cited “For his outstanding contribution to the design and construction of accelerators that has led to the realization of major machines for fundamental science on two continents, and his promotion of international collaboration.”

“I am honored to receive this recognition for my accomplishments,” Ozaki said. “Designing and building particle accelerators takes years of work by hundreds of very talented and skilled people. I am grateful for those who have helped me bring major research facilities to fruition, both in the U.S. and in Japan.”

Ozaki, along with Brookhaven Lab's Michael Harrison, led the decade-long development and construction of the Laboratory's world-class particle accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC). About 1,000 physicists from around the world run experiments at RHIC, colliding very high energy subatomic particles known as heavy ions head-on to study the type of matter that existed a millionth of a second after the Big Bang. In 2005, RHIC physicists discovered a “perfect” liquid, a type of matter that has not existed since the beginning of the universe.

In 2002, RHIC became the world's first and only accelerator to collide high-energy beams of polarized protons — protons that spin in the same direction, the way the Earth spins on its axis. Physicists at RHIC hope to solve the mystery of what causes proton spin.

Before Ozaki started the RHIC project, he was invited in 1981 to join the National Laboratory for High Energy Physics, a research institute in Japan also known as KEK, to direct the construction of TRISTAN, the first major high-energy particle collider in the country. Ozaki completed TRISTAN on time and within budget. The facility accelerates and stores beams of electrons and positrons at 30 billion electron volts, the highest energy in the world at the time the accelerator started operations in 1987. In TRISTAN, the particles collided to create an extremely high-energy concentration in a tiny, point-like space. It was envisaged that such high-energy collisions would reveal the nature of electromagnetic interaction of matter at an extremely short distance and provide the possibility of creating new heavy particles.

After earning a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1959, Ozaki joined Brookhaven Lab as a research associate. He rose through the ranks to become a tenured senior physicist in 1972. He joined KEK in 1981 to work on TRISTAN, a $500-millon project, and then returned to Brookhaven in 1989 to head the RHIC Project. Besides completing the $660-million collider, Ozaki was instrumental in bringing polarized proton capability to RHIC with funding support from the RIKEN Institute of Japan.

From 2005 until recently, Ozaki directed the Accelerator Systems Division for Brookhaven's NSLS-II Project. This new synchrotron light source will provide extremely bright x-rays for basic and applied research in many areas of science. Ozaki serves on various advisory and review committees for U.S. and international institutions, laboratories and government agencies. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the Chair of the APS Forum for International Physics.

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