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Renowned particle physicist David Nygren to join UT Arlington

Monday, May 5, 2014

Media Contact: Traci Peterson

News Topics: astronomy, engineering, faculty, innovation, physics, research

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David Nygren, a renowned physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, has been appointed Presidential Distinguished Professor in the UT Arlington College of Science and will join the University this fall.

David Nygren

David Nygren

Nygren is known for inventing the Time Projection Chamber, or TPC, used worldwide for over three decades in a variety of applications in particle detection and discovery, ranging from relativistic heavy ion collisions to the search for Dark Matter, and extremely rare nuclear decays.

Nygren has worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 1973 and was promoted to Distinguished Scientist in 1995 because of his invention of the TPC and innovations in charge-coupled devices used in digital imaging as well as medical imaging and pixel arrays. He is the only Distinguished Scientist currently working at the Berkeley Laboratory. He also is a fellow of the American Physical Society; a recipient of the Panofsky Prize of the American Physical Society, the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award from the Department of Energy and the Berkeley Lab Prize - Lifetime Achievement Award.

At UT Arlington, Nygren will establish a new unit to foster research at the forefront of particle detector technologies and train the next generation of detector experts. His UT Arlington appointment is partially supported by the University of Texas System Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention, or STARs program.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Nygren will be joining UT Arlington and adding to the distinguished group of faculty in our Department of Physics. Dr. Nygren’s leadership in particle physics will help accelerate the work of our already outstanding High-Energy Physics Group and will take our research to the next level,” UT Arlington President Vistasp M. Karbhari said. “This emphasizes UT Arlington's level of excellence and its commitment to be at the very forefront of research, scholarship and education.”

“I’m looking forward to working with the outstanding faculty at UT Arlington in the College of Science and the College of Engineering, as well as with graduate and undergraduate students,” Nygren said. “UT Arlington is providing an exciting opportunity for me to bring decades of experience in the conception, design, and transformation of experimental technique within an engaged and supportive academic community.”

Nygren plans to maintain his leading role in the international collaboration, NEXT, the Neutrino Experiment Xenon TPC, which was conceived by him and is lead by J.J. Gomez-Cadenas of Valencia, Spain. That effort is “a search for an extremely rare nuclear decay that could teach us whether the neutrino is its own anti-particle,” he said.

Forty years after its invention, Nygren’s revolutionary Time Projection Chamber is integral to three-dimensional particle tracking and particle identification at numerous major international research facilities, including the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland and the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment at Fermilab near Chicago. The TPC invention made the study of very complex interactions possible.

Nygren developed the concept and lead the design for the Digital Optical Modules buried in the ice that form the one cubic kilometer IceCube Detector at the South Pole Neutrino Observatory. That experiment was featured in the November 22, 2013 cover story in Science - “Evidence for High-Energy Extraterrestrial Neutrinos at the IceCube Detector.” Nygren was also instrumental in optimizing the KamLAND experiment in Japan to detect anti-neutrino oscillation.

Pamela Jansma, dean of the UT Arlington College of Science, said Nygren will have an immediate impact as he joins the UT Arlington Department of Physics, already a leader in the area of high-energy physics research.

For almost two decades, UT Arlington physicists have been part of the ATLAS group, one of the two largest research collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, in Europe. The ATLAS and CMS collaborations jointly discovered the Higgs boson, a linchpin of the Standard Model.

UT Arlington scientists also have a significant role at the DZero experiment at lab and planning for the International Linear Collider, a new experiment that is most likely to be built in Japan.

“Dr. Nygren’s tradition of reaching across disciplines to explore interdisciplinary problems will ensure that his impact will not be limited to physics, but will significantly affect all areas of science and engineering at UT Arlington,” Jansma said.

Ronald L. Elsenbaumer, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the addition of a member of the National Academy of Sciences is a powerful indicator of the quality of science and engineering exploration under way at UT Arlington.

“Researchers, scholars and students are increasingly finding that The University of Texas at Arlington within the dynamic North Texas economy is the optimal place to anchor their unrelenting pursuit of knowledge and innovation,” Elsenbaumer said.

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit to learn more and follow #UTAdna.


The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.