Physicist Surjeet Rajendran shares $100,000 New Horizons Prize

A young assistant professor of physics at UC Berkeley, Surjeet Rajendran, was named one of six winners of the 2017 New Horizons In Physics Prize during a Sunday night gala announcing the annual winners of the Breakthrough Prize.

Surjeet Rajendran

Surjeet Rajendran, an assistant professor of physics who shared the New Horizons Prize in Physics.

The New Horizons prizes are awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in either fundamental physics or mathematics.

Rajendran, who works in the area of theoretical particle physics, will share his $100,000 prize with Asimina Arvanitaki of the Perimeter Institute in Ontario, Canada, and Peter Graham of Stanford University. Simone Giombi and Xi Yin of Harvard University also shared a prize, while Frans Pretorius of Princeton University received the third New Horizons prize.

Rajendran, 33, the Henry Shenker assistant professor of physics, searches for new theories to explain dark matter and other cosmological mysteries. He is particularly interested in novel applications of precision sensors, such as atomic and optical interferometers and precision magnetometers, to design detectors that are sensitive to weak effects caused by new physics. These include using atomic clocks to detect gravitational waves and nuclear magnetic resonance techniques to detect axion dark matter.

The main event of the evening was the awarding of the $3 million Breakthrough Prizes, which were awarded to five life scientists, three physicists and one mathematician. One of the life sciences winners, 77-year-old Harry Noller of UC Santa Cruz, is a UC Berkeley alum, class of 1960, who was honored for his groundbreaking work on ribosomes, the complex intracellular machines that build proteins.

Three 2017 New Horizons in Mathematics Prizes were shared by four mathematicians from around the world.

Many of the scientists in attendance at Sunday’s gala will give talks today at the Breakthrough Prize Symposium, which takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at UCSF’s Mission Bay Conference Center in San Francisco and is being streamed live. The symposium is sponsored by UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and Stanford University.

For more details on the New Horizons and Breakthrough Prizes, link to the Breakthrough Foundation’s website.