Nobel Laureate Barry Barish Joins UC Riverside Faculty

Physicist, whose contributions enabled the first observation of gravitational waves, is the university’s second Nobel Prize winner

Barry Barish won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Physicist Barry C. Barish, who won the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of gravitational waves, will join the faculty of the University of California, Riverside, on Sept. 1.

Barish, the Linde Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech, shared the Nobel Prize with fellow Caltech physicist Kip Thorne and MIT physicist Rainer Weiss. The prize recognized their “decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”

On Sept. 14, 2015, LIGO, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, detected for the first time gravitational waves predicted by Albert Einstein more than 100 years ago. A collision between two black holes generated the waves, which took 1.3 billion years to arrive at the LIGO detector. Barish brought the LIGO project to completion, enabling the first observation of this phenomenon.

“We are delighted that Professor Barish is joining our faculty,” said Cynthia Larive, UCR provost and executive vice chancellor. “He will be a strong inspiration for our students, researchers, and faculty. His hiring reflects the growing prominence of our research and graduate programs and the enormous effort UCR invests in our students to prepare them for research at the highest levels. We are grateful UCR will benefit from Professor Barish’s extraordinary achievements.”

Barish earned his bachelor’s degree in physics in 1957 and his doctorate in experimental particle physics in 1962 from UC Berkeley. He joined Caltech as a postdoc in 1963, became a professor in 1966, and was appointed Linde Professor of Physics in 1991. He led the LIGO effort from its inception through the final design stages, and in subsequent discoveries. In 1997, he created the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which enables more than 1000 collaborators worldwide to participate in LIGO.

He has served on many important science committees, including co-chairing the subpanel of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel that developed a long-range plan for U.S. high-energy physics in 2001. He chaired the Commission of Particles and Fields and the U.S. Liaison Committee to the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, and has also been active in a variety of international physics collaborations.

“I very much look forward to joining the UCR physics faculty with its exciting research programs and orientation toward student success,” Barish said. “I hope to bring some new research perspectives, and especially, to helping educate the very special UCR student body.”

Barish is the recipient of the Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award (China), Princess of Asturias Prize for Science and Technology (Spain), Giuseppe and Vanna Cocconi Prize from the European Physical Society, the Enrico Fermi Prize from the Italian Physical Society, and the Klopsteg Award from the American Association of Physics Teachers. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, which awarded him the Henry Draper Medal. From 2003 to 2010, he served as a presidential appointee to the National Science Board.

Barish is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Physical Society, where he also served as president. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Bologna, the University of Florida, and the University of Glasgow.

Working with UCR students — especially as a first-generation college student himself — was a major factor is Barish’s decision to join the faculty in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

Kathryn Uhrich, the dean of the college, noted Barish’s work has “tremendously impacted the field of astrophysics.”

“We are truly grateful for Professor Barish’s willingness to share his wealth of groundbreaking research and knowledge with UCR students and faculty, who also work every day to follow his example and push the boundaries of science,” she said. “That we have two Nobel Prize winners joining our faculty puts us in rare company among international universities and speaks to the quality of our institution — its people, research, learning, and progress.”

Barish is the second Nobel laureate to join UCR. Last month, Richard Schrock, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist and UC Riverside alumnus, announced he was joining the faculty.

Recently, Barish and Schrock were inducted as honorary academicians into the Royal Academy of European Doctors, based in Spain.

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