Arvanitaki, who holds the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Aristarchus Chair at Perimeter, shares the prize with two peers, Peter Graham of Stanford and Surjeet Rajendran of the University of California, Berkeley, for pioneering work that bridges theory and experiment to forge novel ways of exploring particle physics.
“My field of research, involving small-scale particle physics experiments, is a relatively new one, so it is rewarding for it to get this kind of recognition from the physics community,” said Arvanitaki.
“We are seeking novel ways to probe fundamental physics in ways that would not have been possible even 10 years ago. This award indicates that we are on the right track, with the potential to obtain important results with low-cost experiments on ever-shorter time scales. This recognition gives us even more ambition to live up to that potential.”
Arvanitaki joined Perimeter Institute in 2014, after earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Athens and a PhD from Stanford University. Her research is broad and interdisciplinary, testing theories that are beyond the Standard Model, including supersymmetry, dark matter, and extra dimensions.
Arvanitaki’s approach, which amounts to a new paradigm for particle physics, uses technologies like atomic interferometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, and even gravitational wave detectors to answer fundamental questions about the constituents of matter in the universe.
“Perimeter recruited Asimina precisely because she is a daring and unconventional young physicist developing exciting new paradigms for testing fundamental physics using precision experiments,” said Perimeter Director Neil Turok.
“This well-deserved recognition underlines the importance and timeliness of her work. We hope it inspires others to be similarly ambitious and visionary. We are proud that five of our scientists have now won this, the largest prize awarded to young theoretical physicists, in the short time since its creation – more than any other institution worldwide.”
Perimeter Faculty member Davide Gaiotto was among the inaugural 2013 New Horizons winners for his work on quantum field theories. Perimeter’s Freddy Cachazo won the 2014 prize for his work on scattering amplitudes, and Philip Schuster and Natalia Toro earned the 2015 prize for their groundbreaking work on new approaches to particle physics at the Large Hadron Collider and other experiments.
Arvanitaki and her colleagues accepted the award Sunday at a star-studded ceremony in Silicon Valley. The ceremony featured the announcement of the winners of the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Physics. Andrew Strominger, a Harvard professor and Perimeter Distinguished Visiting Research Chair (DVRC), shared the prize with fellow string theorists Cumrun Vafa of Harvard and Joseph Polchinski of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Among past winners of the Breakthrough Prize are a number of Perimeter DVRCs, including Stephen Hawking, Nima Arkani-Hamed, and Juan Maldacena, as well as Perimeter Board member Art McDonald. This year, Perimeter DVRC Frans Pretorius also won a New Horizons Prize.
Upon hearing of Arvanitaki’s New Horizons prize, Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President and Director of the foundation, stated: “We are honoured to support the work of young innovative scientists such as Asimina Arvanitaki through our contribution to the Perimeter Institute, a world-class institution that provides scientists with the high-calibre environment necessary for important scientific contributions to flourish and excel.”
Arvanitaki said recognition is particularly meaningful because it can help spur important progress in the whole field.
“It is a wonderful honour to receive this award, especially knowing that the recipients are chosen by a panel of eminent fellow physicists,” she said.
“For me, it is also particularly gratifying to see more women winning such prestigious awards, given that women have been historically underrepresented in physics. There is still much work to be done, but there are so many talented women in physics who will continue to move the field forward.”
Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.