Physicist Named APS Fellow

Dr. Andreas Piepke

From the February 2017 Desktop News Dr. Andreas Piepke, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was recently elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society for his work in defining the nature of neutrinos, neutral subatomic particles and fundamental constituents of matter.

Each year, only 0.5 percent of the 53,000 members of APS, roughly 265 people, can potentially be elected a fellow.

“It’s a big honor and a welcome recognition for work done in the field,” Piepke said.

To better understand neutrinos, Piepke works with neutrino detection experiments—like the one which helped him and a team of national and international physicists win the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics in 2015. More recently, this and other work led Piepke to become the only APS Fellow to work for The University of Alabama.

Though neutrinos make-up three of the 12 building blocks of matter, scientists still don’t know much about them.

“We know they are electrically neutral,” Piepke said. ”But until recently we didn’t even know if they weighed anything or not. We have been trying to figure out if there are objects that make up matter but don’t have mass.”

Dr. Giorgio Gratta, a professor of physics at Stanford University and long-time collaborator of Piepke’s, nominated Piepke to become a fellow of the APS.

“They get a lot of nominations, so this really means something,” Gratta said. “Andreas is essentially a world leader in this area of research.”

While Piepke continues to work on uncovering the nature of neutrinos, he is now also working to uncover the true nature of dark matter.

“Lately, I have been involved with two UA colleagues in the search for dark matter,” Piepke said. “The problem is nobody knows what it is. The fact that there is so much matter out there and we don’t know what it is, is kind of a big deal for science. Many people are working to figure this out.”

Piepke has been a professor at UA since 2000.