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 May 15, 2010

Young-Kee Kim (PhD Physics, 1990) Receives 2010 Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award

Young-Kee KimAt the Doctoral Degree Ceremony on May 15, 2010, Young-Kee Kim, who earned her PhD in physics at the University in 1990, received the Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award. Kim is the Deputy Director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), where she leads strategic plan development and implementation, and a professor in the Department of Physics and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago.

(photo left: President Seligman with Young-Kee Kim at the Doctoral Degree Ceremony)

Young-Kee Kim is a world leader in experimental particle physics with more than 600 peer-reviewed publications in print. In 2000, she was named one of "20 Young Scientists to Watch" by Discover magazine for her precision measurement of the mass of the subatomic particle "W vector boson," which also earned her the 2005 Ho-Am Prize, Korea’s top science award.

Kim grew up in a small village in Korea, excelling in every subject, but as she grew older, she developed a passion for physics and mathematics. She earned her MS and BS degrees in physics from Korea University in 1986 and 1984, respectively, and studied with Professor Joosang Kang, a particle physicist who instilled in her the desire to study quantum mechanics.

Young-Kee KimIn 1986, she left Korea for the United States, where she began working on her PhD in physics at the University of Rochester. She explains, "Rochester was very well recognized in the Korean physics society for its excellent teaching and research. I was taught, trained, and nurtured by a first-rate Rochester faculty." Kim also credits Rochester with helping her make the transition from Korea to the United States. "Rochester had a strong sense of community," she explains, "and this was crucial to someone like me. I didn't understand English very well, and Rochester made me feel very welcome. By the time I got my PhD, Rochester prepared me for science, humanity, and culture. I was truly ready to move to the next step."

Kim's research seeks to understand the origin of mass for fundamental particles. Since 2003, she has been a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, and since 2006, she has been the Deputy Director of Fermilab, the country's only national lab dedicated to high-energy physics, where scientists study the smallest particles in the universe to answer the biggest questions: What is the world made of? What holds it together? Where did we come from? Before her appointment as Deputy Director, Kim served as co-spokesperson and scientific leader for the Collider Detector at Fermilab, a premier particle physics experiment with the Tevatron, the world's largest proton-antiproton collider. This project involved more than 600 physicists from around the world.

Young-Kee Kim receives 2010 Rochester Distinguished Scholar AwardTo address the central questions in particle physics, scientists use a range of tools and techniques at three interrelated frontiers. Kim's plan for Fermilab focuses on a balanced program of these three frontiers: the energy frontier which involves Fermilab's Tevatron, participation in CERN's LHC, and a future lepton collider; the intensity frontier, using intense particle beams to uncover properties of neutrinos and observe rare processes; and the cosmic frontier, which explores the natures of dark matter and dark energy.

"I've always been very impressed by both the quality and quantity of Professor Kim's research and her ability to get things done," says Nicholas Bigelow, Chair of the Department of Physics at Rochester. "Clearly, she is one of our most distinguished alumni."

The Rochester Distinguished Scholar Award recognizes alumni who have gone on to distinguished careers in academia, industry, government or the arts, and who exemplify the values and attributes of our University community. Other recipients include:

  • 2007: Ernest Courant (PhD Physics, 1943), who invented strong-focusing, the basis for all current circular accelerators
  • 2003: Jack E. Crow (PhD Physics, 1967), who proposed, built, and then headed the National Magnet Lab in Florida
  • 2000: Masatoshi Koshiba (PhD Physics, 1955), who won a Nobel Prize for his work in astrophysics, specifically his detection of cosmic neutrinos
  • 1993: D. Allan Bromley (PhD Physics, 1952), who was President Bush' Science Advisor from 1989-1993 and a pioneer in atomic nuclei research.