UK Physicists Share World's Biggest Science Prizes Totaling $6 Million

Press Release From: Science and Technology Facilities Council
Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UK physicists are among the recipients of two $3M special prizes awarded by the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation.

One of the prizes has been awarded to Professor Stephen Hawking (University of Cambridge) for his discovery of Hawking radiation from black holes, and his deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe.

The other prize has been awarded to seven senior scientists instrumental in the design, construction and operation of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), ATLAS and CMS experiments, and whose leadership led to the discovery of the new Higgs-like particle earlier this year. The group includes Professor Tejinder (Jim) Virdee (Imperial College London) and Dr. Lyn Evans (CERN).

Through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) subscription the UK is one of the biggest investors in CERN and through its membership UK scientists, with funding from STFC, have contributed vital hardware, computing and expertise to the LHC.

Professor Jim Virdee was one of the five physicists who first proposed the CMS experiment. He was the spokesperson for the collaboration from 2006-10. Commenting on the award, Professor Virdee said, "In conceiving, constructing and operating the CMS experiment, and with the discovery of the Higgs-like boson, we have advanced science. For me, it is an honor and privilege to be associated with this advance.

"Bravo to the CMS collaboration for their dedication to make the experiment one of the most beautiful scientific instruments ever. The prize not only celebrates fundamental science but also recognizes the audacious undertaking of the many scientists, engineers and technicians from around the world who, over many years came together to build a powerful detector, one that will still have the potential to produce remarkable physics for years to come."

STFC Chief Executive Professor John Womersley said: "The United Kingdom has been one of the leading partners in the construction both of the LHC and the instruments and detectors linked to it. The UK is a world leader in particle physics and has played a central role in the research coming out of CERN, from the theorists who formulated the model known as the Higgs mechanism, to the engineers and scientists who have designed, built and exploited the LHC. We're really pleased that this award has recognized some of these UK scientists and engineers whose major contributions to the project have helped answer some of the most complex questions being asked about the formation of the universe."

Project leader of the Large Hadron Collider accelerator during the construction period, Dr. Lyn Evans said, "It's fantastic news. We have been acknowledged as the team that led the design, construction and commissioning of the LHC project. In the LHC collider, the accelerator, and the ATLAS and CMS experiments are so inter-related that it has required close cooperation throughout the whole 16 years of construction. During that time, we have faced many challenges that we have overcome together. The tremendous performance of ATLAS, CMS and the LHC is witness to the skill and dedication of our many collaborators which we are very proud to represent".

The prizes are funded by the Milner Foundation.

Corinne Mosese
STFC Press Officer
+44(0)1793 442870/07557 317200

If you have an urgent out of hours enquiry, please call the duty press officer on +44 (0)7092 982664

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

This amazing instrument accelerates two beams of subatomic particles to nearly the speed of light and then deliberately collides the beams into one another to recreate the conditions that existed just milliseconds after the Big Bang. Very sensitive detectors around the tunnel then record information about the types and properties of the particles given off, in the quest for the knowledge to answer some of the biggest physics questions around today.

The Milner Foundation

The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing 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 Science and Technology Facilities Council is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and tackling some of the most significant challenges facing society such as meeting our future energy needs, monitoring and understanding climate change, and global security. The Council has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise in materials science, space and ground-based astronomy technologies, laser science, microelectronics, wafer scale manufacturing, particle and nuclear physics, alternative energy production, radio communications and radar.

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