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Peter Gorham headshot over Antartica photo
Peter Gorham

More than two decades of groundbreaking work to fly massive balloons over Antarctica in search for the elusive neutrino (a tiny particle in the universe capable of traveling at light speed) has earned a University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa professor an international award.

Peter Gorham, professor of physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural Sciences, received the coveted Instrumentation Award from the Division of Particles and Fields of the American Physical Society (APS). The award is “bestowed annually to honor exceptional contributions to instrumentation advancing the field of particle physics through the invention, refinement, or application of instrumentation and detectors.”

APS is an international organization with more than 50,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories and the private sector. Gorham shares the award with his colleague David Saltzberg, a professor of physics at UCLA.

“It is really an honor to get this recognition from APS after many years of work,” Gorham said. “But the best part of it all was the chance for David and I to work with so many great colleagues and train many dozens of students over the two decades that this work has taken. I think the students that have matured and gained careers as scientists because of our work are the lasting fruit of all of this.”

Related story: Listening for neutrinos at the bottom of the world, April 2017

Gorham and Saltzberg have worked together since the late 1990s on development of methodologies to detect high energy particles using radio-based techniques, based on a physical process known as the Askaryan Effect, first hypothesized in the early 1960s by a Russian physicist. Saltzberg and Gorham teamed up in 2000 to make the first experimental confirmation of this effect, and then followed this up with two decades of efforts to exploit these observations with new detectors and instrumentation, including novel applications involving long-duration balloon payloads in Antarctica.

The award was given specifically to Gorham and Saltzberg “for their experimental proof and subsequent characterization of radio emission from high-energy particle cascades, the Askaryan Effect, which has been used in searches for the highest energy astrophysical (PeV and EeV) neutrinos.” The award will officially be presented during a meeting at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center National Accelerator Lab in November.

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