Assistant Professor of Physics James Battat Receives Prestigious Sloan Fellowship

Posted February 16th, 2012 at 2:54 pm.

jbattatAssistant Professor of Physics James Battat is among the outstanding U.S. and Canadian researchers to receive a 2012 Sloan Research Fellowship, announced the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation on Feb. 15.

The Sloan Fellowship will help support Battat’s related research with two groups. Battat is a member of the Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation (APOLLO) at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico and the Dark Matter Time Projection Chamber (DMTPC) experiment, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Brandeis University, the University of Hawaii, and Royal Holloway, University of London.

Previous Bryn Mawr Sloan Fellows

  • Geraldine Richmond, Chemistry, 1985
  • Neal Abraham, Physics, 1982
  • Jay Anderson, Chemistry, 1967
  • Frank Mallory, Chemistry, 1964

“I am honored to receive this fellowship, and I appreciate the Sloan Foundation's continued recognition of the significant achievements in the sciences at Bryn Mawr,” says Battat. “The funds from this award allow me to broaden the scope of my ongoing research program in dark-matter detection and tests of gravity. This work is carried out in collaboration with both graduate and undergraduate students at Bryn Mawr, with contributions from both under- and upper-classwomen.”

Battat will pursue leading constraints on gravitational physics using APOLLO data and open up a new window to astrophysics with the DMTPC’s directional dark-matter detector. As a Pappalardo Fellow at MIT, Battat contributed to the first DMTPC dark-matter search and led the design and construction of the second-generation DMTPC detector. That detector will soon be moved to the existing DMTPC underground laboratory in New Mexico where Battat will begin a low-background dark-matter search.

“My research addresses a recent paradigm shift in fundamental physics. Astrophysical observations reveal that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating; most of the Universe’s energy density is neither matter nor gravitationally attractive. On top of that, the Standard Model of Particle Physics fails to explain 80 percent of the matter that does exist. All told, we lack an adequate description for 95 percent of the mass-energy content of the Universe. In response to this mystery of dark energy and dark matter, I pursue research in experimental particle astrophysics. In particular, I carry out astrophysical tests of gravity, and search for dark matter particles using a novel direct detection technology,” wrote Battat in applying for the fellowship.

Awarded annually since 1955, the fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders.

“Today’s Sloan Research Fellows are tomorrow’s Nobel Prize winners,” says Dr. Paul L. Joskow, President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “These outstanding men and women are responsible for some of the most exciting science being done today. The Foundation is proud to support them during this pivotal stage of their careers.”

Sloan Fellowships are awarded in close cooperation with the scientific community. To qualify, candidates must first be nominated by their peers and are subsequently selected by an independent panel of senior scholars. Fellows receive $50,000 to be used to further their research.

Battat is the only faculty member from a liberal-arts college to receive a 2012 Sloan Fellowship.

“On behalf of the entire faculty, I want to congratulate James for continuing the tradition of research excellence for which Bryn Mawr is known,” says Provost Kim Cassidy. “This is the fifth time this very prestigious fellowship has been awarded to a Bryn Mawr faculty member, which is very unusual even among the most elite liberal-arts colleges.”

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