Ann Elizabeth Nelson
April 29, 1958
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||August 4, 2019 (aged 61)|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Awards||Guggenheim Fellowship (2004)|
Sakurai Prize (2018)
|Doctoral advisor||Howard Georgi|
Ann Elizabeth Nelson (April 29, 1958 – August 4, 2019) was a particle physicist. She was a professor of physics at the University of Washington. She was a member of the university's Particle Theory Group from 1994 until her death. Nelson received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2004, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. She was a recipient of the 2018 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, presented annually by the American Physical Society and considered one of the most prestigious prizes in physics. Her contributions to the field of particle physics made her an important and influential theorist.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Nelson earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Stanford University in 1980, and her Ph.D. degree at Harvard University under the supervision of Howard Georgi in 1984.
Nelson and her collaborators are known for a number of theories, including:
- The theory of spontaneous violation of CP (charge conjugation and parity symmetry), which may explain the origin of the asymmetry observed between matter and anti-matter.
- The theory of Bose-Einstein condensation of kaon mesons in dense matter, which predicts strangeness in neutron stars.
- The basic mechanism for electroweak baryogenesis, which may explain the origin of matter in the universe.
- The theory of gauge-mediated supersymmetry breaking, which accounts for how supersymmetry at short distances might be compatible with the absence of observed flavor-symmetry violation at long distances.
- The Little Higgs theory, which may explain why the Higgs boson must be relatively light.
- The theory of "accelerons", which relates neutrino masses to the cosmological dark energy responsible for the relatively recent acceleration of the expansion of the universe.
Nelson was an activist for equal rights throughout her life. In 1980, when graduating from Stanford University, she and her husband wore colored ribbons to protest Stanford's investments in Apartheid South Africa. In 2017, she led physics lectures in Palestine to support social justice and promote diversity in science fields around the world. She advocated for more female representation in physics research.
On August 4, 2019, while hiking Iron Cap Mountain in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness with her husband and two friends, Nelson lost her footing and died after falling into a rocky crevasse. Her husband and fellow hikers were rescued by a Spokane helicopter crew. Her body was recovered the following morning.
- Fields, Asia (August 6, 2019). "UW professor Ann Nelson remembered as brilliant physicist, advocate for diversity in science". The Seattle Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- "Guggenheim Fellows Directory". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- "Ann E. Nelson - Member Directory". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 2016. Archived from the original on 2019-01-05. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
- "Ann E. Nelson - Member Directory". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on March 24, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- "2018 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics, Ann Nelson". American Physical Society. 2018. Archived from the original on 2018-08-06. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
- Prescod-Weinstein, Chanda (August 22, 2019). "Ann Nelson Took On the Biggest Problems in Physics". Quanta Magazine. Archived from the original on 2019-08-26.
- "Ann E. Nelson - Profile". American Institute of Physics. Archived from the original on March 25, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- "Harvard University Department of Physics Newsletter" (PDF). Harvard University. 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-04-08. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
- "Two biggest physics breakthroughs of the last decade are integrally linked through dark energy and "acceleron"". Phys.org. July 27, 2004. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- Nelson, Ann (May 1, 2017). "Commentary: Diversity in physics: Are you part of the problem?". Physics Today. 70 (5): 10–11. doi:10.1063/PT.3.3536. Archived from the original on August 10, 2019 – via physicstoday.scitation.org (Atypon).
- "Remembering Mountaineer Ann Nelson". The Mountaineers. August 6, 2019. Archived from the original on August 6, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
- Sokol, Chad (August 8, 2019). "Spokane helicopter crew rescues three hikers in Cascades after death of fourth hiker, a UW professor". The Spokesman-Review. Archived from the original on 2019-08-08.