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April 22, 2004

UW physics professor named to National Academy of Sciences

News and Information

R.G. Hamish Robertson, a University of Washington physics professor and scientific director of the UW Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics, was one of 72 new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday.

The scientists, along with 18 foreign associates from 13 countries, were chosen during the academy’s 141st annual meeting in Washington, D.C., in recognition of what the academy called “their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”

Robertson did his undergraduate work at Oxford University and earned a doctorate at McMaster University in 1971. He went to Michigan State University as a postdoctoral fellow and became a physics professor there, receiving an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation fellowship in 1976. He joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1981, working on means of determining whether subatomic particles called neutrinos have mass, a long-standing question in physics.

He initiated the laboratory’s collaboration in the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory project, and now is the co-spokesman for the United States contingent in the Sudbury collaboration. Two years ago the observatory’s work confirmed that not only do neutrinos have mass, but they can randomly change among three neutrino types. These discoveries are leading to greater understanding in areas such as how the early universe worked.

Robertson came to the UW in 1994, continuing his work in neutrino physics. He was awarded the Tom W. Bonner Prize from the American Physical Society in 1997, and last year was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Election to membership in the National Academy of Sciences is considered one of the highest honors for a U.S. scientist or engineer. There are now 1,949 active members and 351 foreign associates.

The National Academy is a private organization of scientists and engineers established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation, signed by President Lincoln. Under the act, the academy is to act as official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.