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Very rubin observatory, Credit: Rubin Obs/NSF/AURA

Perimeter Director Neil Turok receives physics leadership award

Neil Turok wins prestigious Tate Medal from the American Institute of Physics, donates prize money to African Institute for Mathematical Sciences.

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has awarded its 2016 John Torrence Tate Award for International Leadership in Physics to Perimeter Institute Director Neil Turok.

Neil Turok, Perimeter Institute's Director, wins Tate Medal from the American Institute of Physics
Perimeter Institute Director Neil Turok

The award recognizes Turok’s many contributions to the international physics community, including his directorship of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, his founding of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), and his cosmology research, as well as his lectures and publications.

“We are thrilled to award this prize to Dr. Turok for his many contributions to the international physics community,” said AIP Chief Executive Officer Robert G.W. Brown.

Awarded every two years to non-US citizens for international leadership in physics, the award consists of a medal, a certificate of recognition, and a $10,000 prize. 

Rather than keep the monetary prize, Turok has donated it to AIMS to launch the Thierry Zomahoun Scholarship, named after the institute's president and CEO.

“Thierry was a street kid who gained three Masters degrees and became an incredible manager and development leader,”Turok said.

“I would like this scholarship to encourage students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, overcome huge obstacles in their personal development, and show outstanding commitment to creating a better future for others.

“I can think of no better way to pay tribute to this honour, and to John Torrance Tate (who established the world’s top physics journal), than to support an AIMS scholarship in Thierry’s name. I hope this will encourage other donors to follow suit.”

The award will be presented to Turok at the 2016 Quadrennial Physics Congress, which takes place November 3-5, 2016, in Silicon Valley, California.

Born in South Africa and educated at Cambridge University, Turok is known for developing fundamental theories of cosmology and new observational tests. His prediction of a key signature of dark energy was recently confirmed; moreover, he developed the “open inflation” scenario with Stephen Hawking, among others, as well as its principal rival, a cyclic model of the universe, with Paul Steinhardt.

In 2001, Turok turned his attention back to Africa: “I became increasingly concerned about how to access and enable the vast untapped pool of scientific and technical talent that currently lies wasted in developing countries,” Turok explained.

He worked with friends, colleagues, and supporters to create the first AIMS campus as a centre of excellence for postgraduate education, research, and outreach in the mathematical sciences. 

“It has been incredibly gratifying to see young African scientists – 1,000 of them and counting – emerge from AIMS with the skills and motivation to solve real problems in their countries,” he added.

Since 2008, he has been Director of Perimeter Institute, where he also holds the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Niels Bohr Chair. 

In announcing the award, the AIP said that “through his leadership of both AIMS and Perimeter Institute, Turok has championed fundamental science not only as a means to important discoveries that will shape our technological future, but also as the path to a shared understanding of our universe and our place in it.”


* This story was updated to reflect Turok's donation to AIMS.

About PI

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. 

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