WMAP team, including Professor David Spergel and Associated Faculty Member Lyman Page, win 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

Monday, Dec 4, 2017
by Princeton Department of Astrophysical Sciences

4 Princeton University scientists pictured who were among 17 Princeton faculty members recognized with the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

From left: Lyman Page, David Spergel, Norman Jarosik and Jo Dunkley were among the seventeen scientists from Princeton University awarded the 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for their ground-breaking work generating a map of the early universe as part of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team. Illustration by Matilda Luk, Office of Communications.

BREAKTHROUGH PRIZE – “THE OSCARS OF SCIENCE” – CELEBRATES TOP ACHIEVEMENTS IN PHYSICS, LIFE SCIENCES & MATHEMATICS, AWARDS $22 MILLION IN PRIZES AT GALA TELEVISED CEREMONY IN SILICON VALLEY

The 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics was awarded to scientists Charles L. Bennett (John Hopkins University), Gary Hinshaw (University of British Columbia), Norman Jarosik (Princeton University), Lyman Page, Jr. (Princeton University), and David N. Spergel (Princeton University) and the WMAP science team.  WMAP involved many members of the Princeton astrophysics department, including now Professor Jo Dunkley.  Other members of the WMAP science team at Princeton included Hiranya Peiris, Licia Verde, Rachel Bean, Olivier Dore, Eiichiro Komatsu, Mike Nolta, Kendrick Smith and Michele Limon.  

infant universe

Map of Infant Universe created by WMAP

Half of the $3 million 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics will be shared among the 5 lead scientists and the other half shared between the remainder of the 27-member WMAP experimental team for creating detailed maps of the early universe that greatly improved our knowledge of the evolution of the cosmos and the fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies.  

Princeton's Office of Communication write-up about the WMAP project and Breakthough Prize can be read here.   Space.com article is here.

The Breakthrough Prize is a set of international awards bestowed in three categories -- life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics -- by Breakthrough Prize Board in recognition of scientific advance.  The prize was founded in 2012 by tech entrepreneurs including Sergey Brin, the Google co-founder; Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder; and Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of personal genomics company 23andMe.

“The Breakthrough Prize was created to celebrate the achievements of scientists, physicists, and mathematicians, whose genius help us understand our world, and whose advances shape our future,” said Mark Zuckerberg, a founder of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation and Facebook.

In addition to the Breathrough Prizes, seven New Horizons Prizes – an annual prize of $100,000, recognizing the achievements of early-career physicists and mathematicians – were awarded.  The New Horizons in Physics Prize is awarded to promising early-career researchers who have already produced important work in fundamental physics.  One of the winners, Christopher Hirata, currently with Ohio State University, was a graduate student in Princeton's Physics Department , but spent a lot of time in Peyton Hall.  He did his first postdoctoral work at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS).