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(Last updated 12/9/05)

 

AWARD LETS SCIENTIST PROBE LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING

COLUMBUS , Ohio – A prestigious award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help John Beacom perform a forensic study of the universe. He will investigate how stars live, and how they die.

The assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio State University has earned one of NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards, which recognize a young researcher's dual commitment to scholarship and education. He will receive more than $600,000 over five years to fuel an ambitious project titled “New frontiers in nuclear astrophysics.”

Beacom will search the skies for evidence of the nuclear reactions that make stars shine. The best clues are subatomic particles called neutrinos which are notoriously difficult to detect. Despite building giant particle detectors all over the planet, scientists only capture a handful of neutrinos every day.


This award is not Beacom's first from the foundation; he was formerly an NSF Graduate Fellow while earning his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin . With the addition of Beacom , Ohio State now boasts 40 CAREER winners.


Yet, scientists need to know more about these particles in order to reconstruct what happens when a star ends its life in a supernova, as well as what happens inside normal stars every day. Neutrinos are intimately linked to the processes that make stars like our own sun shine, and maintain life on Earth.

That's why Beacom will explore new techniques for finding these elusive particles. Ultimately, he hopes to uncover a kind of cosmic neutrino map – a measure of the energy of all the neutrinos that have formed since the universe began.

“The first astronomers used their eyes,” Beacom said, “and then optical telescopes, and later they invented radio telescopes, and X-ray and infrared telescopes, and they started seeing all kinds of things they'd never seen before.”

“Every time you get a new set of eyes, you learn something new about the universe,” he continued. “We believe that the same thing would be true if we could ‘see' neutrinos.”

The award also contains a strong education component. Beacom plans outreach activities that target deaf and hard-of-hearing students and their teachers, both in Ohio and around the country.

The CAREER award honors teachers and scholars who are likely to become academic leaders in the future. Since 1996, NSF has given the award to faculty who effectively integrate research and education within the context of the mission of their institution.

This award is not Beacom's first from the foundation; he was formerly an NSF Graduate Fellow while earning his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Wisconsin . He joined the Ohio State faculty in 2004.

With the addition of Beacom , Ohio State now boasts 40 CAREER winners.

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Contact: John Beacom, 614) 247-8102; Beacom.7@osu.edu

Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu