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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Professor wins Fundamental Physics Breakthrough Prize

A headshot of Stony Brook Professor and C.N. Yang/Wei Deng Endowed Chair at the University, Alexander Zamolodchikov. Zamolodchikov has been named co-recipient of the 2024 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. JOHN GRIFFIN/STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY

A Stony Brook University professor has been selected as a winner of the Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics.

Alexander Zamolodchikov, a distinguished professor and the C.N. Yang/Wei Deng Endowed Chair at the University was a co-winner of the prize, along with University of Oxford Professor John Cardy. Both were cited for their contributions to the field of physics and the scientific discoveries their research had made. 

Zamolodchikov received a Master of Science in nuclear engineering from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and later a Doctor of Philosophy in physics from the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Physics. He started his career as a researcher for the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics before joining the staff at Rutgers University in 1990.

“Basically, my work was my attempt to understand the structure or the space of quantum field theories,” Zamolodchikov said. “One can imagine there is a collection of field theories. And if we are able to map this collection, then we will have a much better chance to find the point in this map that corresponds to our physical universe.”

Zamolodhikov also explained that once researchers have obtained the aforementioned map of quantum field theories, it will become much easier for them to describe new systems found using quantum field theory, though the process to complete that map is not yet close to being done.

“I must say this mapping is not something which I expect to be accomplished in a couple of years,” he said. “I think it’s a very long project. I don’t have hope to see the end of it.”

According to the Breakthrough Foundation’s website, Zamolodhikov and Cordy were recognized for “[contributing] a lifetime of deep insights into quantum field theories, which describe not only particle physics, but emergent phenomena from magnetism and superconducting materials to the information content of black holes, and have also become a rich field of study in mathematics.”

This is the third Breakthrough Prize in physics that has been won by Stony Brook Faculty. The first was won by Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy Chang Kee Jung in 2016. In 2019, Distinguished Professor Emeritus Peter van Nieuwenhuizen won the same prize for the discovery of supergravity. 

“The Breakthrough Prize is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition of Professor Zamolodchikov, a visionary physicist who has advanced fundamental research in physics throughout his incredible career,” Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis said. “The C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics and more generally Stony Brook’s Department of Physics and Astronomy continue to redefine the current field of theoretical physics, inspiring our students with some of the best and most exciting faculty in the world.”

The Laureates will be celebrated next April at the 10th annual Breakthrough Prize Ceremony held in Los Angeles and five $3 million prizes will be split between the 11 of them.

“I never expected to find myself in this kind of distinguished company,” Zamolodchikov said. “I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised, of course. And you know, we don’t work for prizes, we work to understand things, but it’s very pleasant to know that other people appreciate your kind of symbolic manifestation of this appreciation.”


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About the Contributor
Sky Crabtree, Assistant News Editor
Sky Crabtree is an Assistant News Editor for The Statesman and a sophomore studying journalism and political science. He joined the paper in the spring of 2023 as a news reporter and was promoted at the end of the same semester. Outside of The Statesman, you can catch him reporting on WUSB's weekly news show and as a member of the Stony Brook Media Group.
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