College of Science

UT Arlington physicists hail discovery of new particle

The College of Science Department of Earth and Environmental Science will undergo a change in leadership in January, when Asish Basu takes over as department chair from John Wickham.

Basu, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., was selected as the new chair from a field of four finalists. Wickham is stepping down after having led the department since his arrival at UT Arlington in 1992.

"We're very pleased to have a geoscientist as distinguished and experienced as Dr. Basu coming to head the Department of Earth and Environmental Science," said Pamela Jansma, dean of the College of Science. "His knowledge and expertise will be invaluable in helping build a geochemistry program here and in attracting top faculty to do research and teach in this area. We had several very well-qualified candidates for this position, but we feel Dr. Basu will bring the best combination of experience and leadership to help continue to move the department forward.

"We want to thank John Wickham for his 20-plus years of excellent leadership as chair. The department has made tremendous gains under his guidance, and his efforts to ensure that our students receive all the teaching and hands-on training they need to be successful have been tireless. His leadership has ensured that the department is in great position to continue to move forward under Dr. Basu."

Basu applied for the position in January and came to UT Arlington to deliver a seminar lecture in February. He returned for a formal interview in March and was formally offered the job in May; arrangements have been finalized in the past two weeks.

"It's like turning a new page and I'm very excited about that," Basu said. "Life is an adventure and I'm looking forward to this new chapter, and to helping to build on what's already been done and make the department stronger."

Under Wickham's leadership, the department established its first doctoral program and greatly increased its number of interdisciplinary programs, working closely with various other departments both within the College of Science and throughout the University. He also spearheaded efforts designed to improve financial support for and improve diversity among geoscience students.

"Twenty years is a long time to be in any particular position, and as the writer of Ecclesiastes points out, there is a time for everything," Wickham said. "I've been lucky to have faculty, staff, students and alumni who respect each other.

"When early particle physicists found the electron within a few years, you had
light bulbs, you had electricity," Brandt said. "Similar things for when we understood magnetism, all the power plants use some basic magnetic properties to create electricity. And then understanding the nucleus and the atom gave us nuclear power. So now we're understanding some of the fundamental ways that particles get mass, and who knows where that might lead?"

Alex Weiss, professor and chair of the Department of Physics, hailed the contributions of HEP group members to the efforts which led to discovery of the new particle.

"I know that this represents the culmination of more than 20 years of long hours, hard work and millions of miles traveled on the part of the members of the Center," Weiss said in an email to HEP group members. "Through your efforts, the UTA HEP group played key roles in the discovery starting with the construction here at UTA of key parts - and multiple tons shipped to Switzerland - of the ATLAS detector, and more recently with the analysis of ATLAS data using the special purpose supercomputer that you built here at UTA for the ATLAS Tier II Center.

"Your work has brought great benefit to the University by establishing UTA as an important player in the international High Energy Physics community. Your work has brought great honor to UTA and well-deserved recognition to your group, to the Department of Physics, the College of Science as well as the University of Texas as a whole.

"It is truly an exciting time in physics. We have a very good understanding of much of the universe, but the new discoveries to which you have helped contribute show that there are many more mysteries yet to unravel, e.g. Dark Matter, Dark Energy and now the nature of the Higgs. I am confident that the HEP group and the new UTA Center of Excellence for High Energy Physics will continue to play key roles in the many exciting discoveries yet to come."

A full press release about the announcement can be found at http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2012/Higgs-Search-LHC-20120704.html

To watch an interview with Yu on WFAA Channel 8, click here. To watch an interview with Yu on KTVT Channel 11, click here. For a slide presentation of a public symposium given by Yu at UT Arlington on July 6, click here. To hear a KERA 90.1 radio interview with Brandt, click here. To read a Star-Telegram story on the discovery featuring quotes by De, click here.

Posted July 16, 2012