Swansea University Physics Graduate wins Million Dollar Prize

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Prof Lyn Evans, former Project Leader at CERN and a Physics graduate from Swansea University, is one of this year’s winners of the Special Fundamental Physics Prize, which recognizes transformative advances in Physics. The prize comes with three million dollar and is shared by scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Fundamental Physics Prize is funded by the Milner Foundation, which was established by Yuri Milner, a Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist and a former theoretical and particle physics student at Moscow State University. After realizing that physics was not for him, he moved to the USA in 1990 to become a successful investment banker: his current net worth is estimated to be one billion US dollar. 

The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation was established last year in order to advance our knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level by awarding annual prizes for scientific breakthroughs, as well as communicating the excitement of fundamental physics to the public. The first winners include famous string theorists, such as Edward Witten and Nathan Seiberg (both at Princeton), and cosmologists, such as Alan Guth (MIT) and Andrei Linde (Stanford), who all won three million dollar each.

This year two special prizes were awarded: one to Stephen Hawking, for his groundbreaking work on black holes and quantum mechanics, and one to the leaders of the LHC project, for their leadership role in the scientific endeavour that led to the discovery of the new Higgs-like particle at CERN's Large Hadron Collider in July this summer.

This includes Lyn Evans, who was responsible for the construction of the Large Hadron Collider. After obtaining his doctoral degree in Swansea, he moved to CERN in 1969 and started working on the construction of the LHC in 1994. The first particle collisions took place in March 2010 and without a doubt, the highlight so far was the discovery of the Higgs boson, which was announced this July and celebrated in Swansea University with a keynote lecture by Prof Peter Higgs at a major international Conference, exactly one week after the announcement at CERN.

Prof Lyn Evans

After hearing of the prize, Prof Lyn Evans, an Honorary Fellow of Swansea University, told the Guardian newspaper: “I got a phone call saying I'd won a prize of a million bucks. I was gobsmacked. The first thing you do is sit down. This is great for us, and it addresses some of the deficiencies of the Nobel prize, which cannot go to more than three people."


The Atlas and CMS teams each receive $1m. Beyond splashing out on an iPad, what to do with the winnings has Evans stumped. "I don't need a vast amount of money. One thing I'm not going to do is ride around Cern in a Ferrari. That would be bad for my image," he said.

"Choosing this year's recipients from such a large pool of spectacular nominations was a very difficult task," said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a member of the Selection Committee. "The selected physicists have done transformative work spanning a wide range of areas in fundamental physics.”

"It is a great honour for the LHC's achievement to be recognised in this way," said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer, "this prize recognizes the work of everyone who has contributed to the project over many years. The Fundamental Physics Prize underlines the value of fundamental physics to society, and I am delighted that the Foundation has chosen to hold its first award ceremony at CERN." 

"I am very much pleased with the decisions of the Selection Committee," commented Yuri Milner. "I hope that the prizes will bring further recognition to some of the most brilliant minds in the world and the great accomplishments they have produced."

The Prizes will be awarded at CERN in March 2013.