Pitt physicists win prestigious research awards


Clare Sheedy | Assistant Visual Editor

The Cathedral of Learning.

By Millicent Watt, Assistant News Editor

Two Pitt physicists — Vittorio Paolone and Andrew Mugler — recently received prestigious awards from the American Physics Society.

Paolone, a physics professor, and his team received the W.K.H. Panofsky Prize, which recognizes achievements in experimental particle physics. The prize is presented annually and consists of $10,000, an allowance for traveling expenses to receive the award and a certificate citing the recipient’s contributions.

Paolone collaborated with other researchers at the Fermi Nuclear Accelerator Laboratory to study neutrinos — a tiny, neutral and subatomic particle. Paolone and his team won the Panofsky Prize for their work in the early 2000s, where they detected the tau neutrino — a negatively charged subatomic particle — through an experiment Paolone helped design. 

Mugler, an assistant physics professor, and his team received the Irwin Oppenheim Award, which recognizes papers published in the Physical Review E. The prize — which is also awarded annually — consists of a $3,000 stipend, a certificate, a travel reimbursement to attend the APS March meeting and an invitation to speak at the conference.

Mugler’s team published a 2020 paper describing a cell’s “critical point,” which physicists think could dictate some biological processes. Mugler said studying the “critical point” is a “compelling story.”

“But I don’t think, until this paper, people really wrote down that question in a quantitative way,” Mugler said. “And then we extended it to cases that are more realistic for cells.”