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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Physics professor receives prestigious award

    Dr. Rouven Essig is “outwardly soft-spoken” yet firm and authoritative when it comes to standards of theoretical physics, according to John Jaros, his colleague at the SLAC National Accelerator Lab at Stanford University.

    Essig, an assistant professor at the C.N. Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University, received the Department of Energy Early Career Award grant for his research examining particle physics at various frontiers.

    The Department Of Energy, or DOE, will give Essig $750,000 over five years. Essig applied for the grant last year and found he would receive the monetary prize a month before the formal announcement when his manager asked him to review his budget. He was told that he would probably receive the award and waited for the DOE to officially declare his award.

    Essig plans to use the money to fund postdoctoral research for graduate students. He considers having additional minds vital to interpreting findings.

    “Having additional people thinking about is very important to me,” Essig said.

    As a physicist, his personal mission is to find combinations that work and what the universe consists of. While he has not found anything definitive in his research, Essig has found himself delving into two distinct parts of theoretical physics.

    A goal of Essig and his colleagues’  is to find a fifth force. They know that there is a gravitational force that results in the moon revolving around the earth, a strong force that holds protons and neutrons together in atomic nuclei, a weak force that explains aspects of radioactive phenomena and an electromagnetic force that brings magnets together.

    His other goal is to find an experiment to explain dark matter. Everything one sees is made up of protons and electrons that take up 20 percent of the universe, according to Essig. Dark matter is said to take up the other 80 percent.

    “Rouven Essig is unique,” said Bogdan Wojtsekhowski, a senior staff scientist at the Jefferson National Lab in in Virgina and colleague of Essig’s since 2009. “He has a theoretical mind. However, his motivation to find out the true nature of dark matter has brought him to the experimental camp, where his role is also very useful. He has been instrumental in solving a number of non-theoretical problems and promoting dark photon research worldwide.”

    Growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa, Essig first became interested in physics in high school after having a teacher who made the subject exciting. He already knew that he wanted to go into physics.

    Essig received his bachelor’s degree with honors in physics and math in South Africa and his doctorate degree from Rutgers University in 2008 with his dissertation entitled “Physics Beyond the Standard Model: Supersymmetry, Dark Matter, and LHC Phenomenology.” His paper used known data to attempt to explain physics that goes beyond normal understanding.

    Essig joined the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics in 2011 and currently teaches PHY 431- Nuclear and Particle Physics. He will eventually start teaching graduate courses. Jaros calls Essig “extremely clear and physical in his explanations to his experimentalist colleagues” and “a natural and effective teacher.”

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