Ting Li ’16, a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Texas A&M University, has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Lederman Fellowship in Experimental Physics, one of the most distinguished postdoctoral fellowships in experimental particle physics.
The three-year fellowship was created in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in tribute to world-renowned physicist and Nobel laureate Leon M. Lederman when he stepped down after 11 years as director of Fermilab. Lederman shared in the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics for work done in the 1960s with neutrinos — veritable ghost-like building blocks of matter — that led to major breakthroughs in the study of weak forces as well as the overall structure and dynamics of matter. His namesake award at Fermilab is intended to attract exceptional postdoctoral candidates with demonstrated outstanding ability in research and a strong interest in education and outreach.
Li is only the second astronomer ever selected for the prestigious fellowship, whose previous 16 recipients include Texas A&M high-energy physicist Ricardo Eusebi. An accomplished instrument builder as a member of Texas A&M’s Charles R. ’62 and Judith G. Munnerlyn Astronomical Laboratory and the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, Li has built her own telescope, the Atmospheric Transmission Monitoring Camera (aTmCam), which has been taking data in Chile since fall 2014 that is being used for the five-year, DOE-funded Dark Energy Survey. She also worked on DECal, one of the key sub-components of the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera that powers the DES. Based on these accomplishments, she is one of a handful of graduate students worldwide to earn the coveted DES Builder status, which entitles her to be listed as an author on every DES collaboration-related paper released and allows her to keep working on the DES data after she graduates from Texas A&M. In addition, Li built the exposure time calculator for GMACS, a custom-designed spectrograph and one of the first-light instruments for the $1 billion Giant Magellan Telescope.
“This is one of only a few prize fellowships in particle physics,” said Texas A&M astronomer Jennifer Marshall, Munnerlyn Lab manager and mentor to Li along with fellow Texas A&M astronomer and Munnerlyn Lab director Darren DePoy. “The fact that it was awarded to an astronomer this year is notable and speaks to how extraordinary and cross-disciplinary Ting’s work has been. The Lederman also has an educational/public outreach component, so Ting will be able to continue her work in public outreach as well. We’re very proud of her!”
Lederman Fellows have a choice in the broad program of experimental work at Fermilab, which includes research at the Large Hadron Collider, neutrino physics, astroparticle physics and research at the Intensity Frontier. In recognition of Lederman’s commitment to the teaching of physics at all levels, fellows are also expected to spend a certain fraction of their time in education and outreach, including through the Saturday Morning Physics program Lederman founded in 1980 while at Fermilab.
“The Lederman Fellowship seeks the best possible researchers with a passion for education and outreach,” said Vaia Papdimitriou, associate head of Fermilab’s accelerator division and the inaugural Lederman Fellow in 1990. “It takes a very special person to give more than 100 percent to their research and also make time for teaching.”
Li, who is set to receive her doctorate in August, says she likely will continue her research in astrophysics and, specifically, DES-related work when she begins her fellowship at Fermilab in fall 2016. She also hopes to work on other instrumentation and spectroscopy-related projects and looks forward to getting involved in Fermilab’s educational outreach program.
Click here for additional information on the Lederman Fellowship at Fermilab.
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