I’m happy to convey the Graduate Division’s heartiest congratulations to Berkeley Professor of Physics Saul Perlmutter, who early this month shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for the simultaneous discovery — with two competitor-colleagues half a world away at the Australian National University — of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Their cosmological revelation ran counter to much accepted wisdom and set the physics world on its ear, yet it brought added luster to Berkeley’s physics department — already among the nation’s best according to the most recent National Research Council rankings — and to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he and his team did much of their painstaking work.
Today’s graduate students as well as graduate alumni can feel special reflected pride in sharing a part of this lineage: Saul Perlmutter earned his Ph.D. right here, in 1989. His doctoral adviser, who suggested the cosmology problem to him, was the innovative research scientist and teacher Richard A. Muller (see this recent profile), who also earned his Ph.D. here, in 1969.
Muller, in turn, was advised at Berkeley by the nearly legendary Luis Alvarez and vividly recalls tuning in a radio station at this time of year in 1968 and hearing that his mentor had just won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Then-student Muller shared in the “wonderful, happy,” champagne-filled time that followed.
Saul Perlmutter has grad students, too, five of whom have been members of the Supernova Cosmology Project collaborative, and they, too, have shared the Nobel elation — along with the hard work.
The wages earned from those long hours in the lab, I think most grad students would agree, aren’t the greatest. But the benefits can sometimes be unbeatable!
Andrew J. Szeri
Dean of the Graduate Division