James W. Cronin, who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1980, has joined the faculty of the University of Utah, the U. announced Friday.
U. officials said he will be the first Nobel laureate on the faculty of any school in the state."We are extremely enthusiastic about this," said Zeev Valentine Vardeny, chairman of the Physics Department. "With the addition of Jim Cronin, the University of Utah is now first in the Western Hemisphere in the field of experimental astrophysics."
Cronin is known for his love of teaching as well as his teaching abilities, university officials say. His assignment will be to revamp the undergraduate physics lab and teach new laboratory classes.
Presently a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, Cronin has also taught at Princeton. The 66-year-old Chicago native was given a five-year, half-time appointment as a U. professor.
He shared the 1980 Nobel Prize with Val L. Fitch for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of subatomic particles called K-mesons. The discovery of what is called "CP Violation" is important to understanding physics.
The Brookhaven National Laboratory, where both scientists worked, said they discovered "the opposite of what they had expected to find when they began their experiment in 1963 . . . Cronin and Fitch had discovered a flaw in physics' central belief that the universe is symmetrical."
In May, Cronin visited the university to present a colloquium on the discovery.
Vardeny said Cronin is coming to Utah because he wants to be close to the action in astrophysics and high-energy cosmic particle research. The U. is a world leader in these fields and operates several cosmic ray detection arrays.
In 1996, Utah was chosen as the Northern Hemisphere's host for the Pierre Auger Observatory, an international project to improve detection of the mysterious particles that shower Earth.
The Utah portion would involve building 1,600 detectors, scattered over as many square miles of the southwestern Utah desert. But recently the $50 million project was called into question because of technical problems.
However, Cronin's addition to the Physics Department may give impetus to the effort to build the observatory. "I'm telling you, the future of astrophysics is here at the University of Utah," Vardeny said.