10 November 2015 09:55

The contribution of a group of researchers from Lancaster University has been recognised within this year’s Breakthrough Prize for Fundamental Physics. 

The Breakthrough Prize was split between five separate international teams for their work into neutrino science.

Two of the teams, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) collaboration and the T2K/K2K collaboration, have had long-term Lancaster involvement.

The Awards, which are now in their third year, are handed out over three main categories: Life Sciences, Fundamental Physics and Mathematics. Funded by Silicon Valley giants like Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin, the Prize for Fundamental Physics recognises ‘major insights into the deepest questions of the Universe’.

Together, the teams discovered cracks in the Standard Model of particle physics, finding that neutrinos oscillate - change type - showing that the tiny particles must have mass, which changed calculations about the nature of the Universe.

The Breakthrough Prize is valued at $3 million, which was shared equally between the five experiments.

Dr Laura Kormos, one of the researchers recognised by the Award, said: "This prize is an exciting recognition of the paradigm-shifting work on neutrinos that has changed our understanding of how the universe works.  It is particularly gratifying in that it explicitly rewards each individual in addition to the collaboration leadership, and in that it has been awarded for our success in doing the one thing we all desire most to do: force the frontiers of physics to shift."

The Award was presented at a ceremony at the NASA Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, on 8 November. The ceremony was broadcast live in the US on the National Geographic Channel, and was hosted by comedian Seth Macfarlane.

Lancaster researchers were also involved in the work of the Nobel Laureates for Physics this year, both of which were awarded for work in the field of neutrino science.

Other members of the Lancaster Experimental Particle Physics group on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider shared the prize with Peter Jenni and Fabiola Gianotti in 2013 for the discovery of the Higgs boson.