UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau will receive the Cliff Shull Prize for his research in the field of neutron splitting, the Neutron Scattering Society of America announced last Friday.
The society gives out the award every two years to a leading researcher who has made lifelong contributions to the field of neutron science, according to Bruce Gaulin, the society’s president. Birgeneau was chosen to receive the $5,000 prize after a rigorous process of nomination of physicists across the country, and he will accept the prize at the American Conference on Neutron Scattering at the end of June at Georgetown University.
Gaulin called the prize the “single most significant career recognition for advances in neutron science.”
Jinsheng Wen, a postdoctoratal researcher who has worked with Birgeneau in his lab, said in an email that the chancellor balances his research and his role as the head campus administrator well. Though Birgeneau spends most of his time corresponding with his researchers via email, he still finds time to go to seminars on research to stay up-to-date on developments in the neutron splitting field, according to Wen.
“The chancellor is quite busy, but he still devotes quite some time into research,” he said in the email.
In the lab, the research team uses neutrons to interact with superconductors and observes their “amazing” properties, which include having zero resistance to the current flowing through them, he said in the email.
Understanding how superconductors function “will not only be fundamentally important, but also will bring breakthrough for applications, since one will have guidance to design a good superconductor that can be put into work efficiently and economically,” Wen said in the email.
Gaulin cited Birgeneau’s “seminal contribution to neutron science, extensive record of important scientific publishing and track record of supervising many grad students and Ph.D students that went on to be successful in starting their own research programs across the country” as grounds for winning the prize.
He added that Birgeneau has also played an important advisory role in leading committees of the U.S. Department of Energy, which informed the U.S. policy on building alternative energy facilities.
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