Michael Ramsey-Musolf, Pioneering Physicist, Receives One of Physics’ Highest Awards
Michael Ramsey-Musolf, professor of physics at UMass Amherst, director of the Amherst Center for Fundamental Interactions and a T.D. Lee professor at Tsung-Dao Lee Institute/Shanghai Jiao Tong University, has been recognized with the American Physical Society’s prestigious Herman Feshbach Prize in Theoretical Nuclear Physics. The award recognizes “outstanding research in theoretical nuclear physics,” and is considered one of the profession’s most prestigious awards.
Ramsey-Musolf, who has co-authored over 200 scientific articles, focuses on the intersection of nuclear and particle physics with cosmology. “Where does matter come from, and how does nature put it together,” he asks. “And why does the universe have more matter in it than anti-matter?” The answers to those questions address a fundamental question about the universe: how did we get here?
Ramsey-Musolf’s recognition speaks to his “seminal contributions in precision electroweak studies of nuclear and hadronic systems, making fundamental symmetry experiments powerful probes of strong interactions and new physics.” His work entails combining exquisitely precise theoretical computations, development of new theoretical methods and delineation of the broader scientific implications of related experimental work to set the future direction of the field. As a result, both the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation have established fundamental symmetry tests as one of the cornerstones of nuclear science in the U.S.
While the Feshbach Prize honors scientific achievement, his prize biography highlights Ramsey-Musolf’s long-standing mentoring of and advocacy for LGBTQ+ physicists.
“I came out as gay as a Ph.D. student,” says Ramsey-Musolf, “and had no role models. I’ve worked to make the path easier and less isolating for future generations of physicists.” He helped found the organization LGBTQ+Physicists and has mentored over 60 Ph.D. students and post-docs.
“By all accounts, Ramsey-Musolf is the first openly gay physicist to receive such a prominent and international level of scientific recognition, effectively shattering the discipline’s “lavender ceiling,” says Anthony Dinsmore, head of the UMass Amherst physics department.
Since 2019, Ramsey-Musolf, who is also an ordained Episcopal priest, has maintained a joint appointment between Tsung-Dao Lee Institute/Shanghai Jiao Tong University and UMass Amherst. “It’s so important to keep grassroots scientific inquiry and collaboration alive,” says Ramsey-Musolf, “and to connect the physics communities in the West and China.”
The Herman Feshbach Prize will be awarded at the APS meeting in April 2023. This the second time a UMass physicist has won this coveted prize; Barry Holstein received the award in 2019.