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ODU Doctoral Graduate in Accelerator Physics Wins Presidential Award

Gianluigi Ciovati, a research scientist at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility who received a Ph.D. in accelerator physics from Old Dominion University in 2005, has been named a recipient of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers by President Barack Obama.

Ciovati, who is known at ODU and Jefferson Lab by his nickname "Gigi," is among 100 young researchers to win a 2009 award. Recipients receive five years of financial support to further research they are conducting in areas deemed by the government to be critical. Ciovati's grant will provide him up to $250,000 over five years for studies at Jefferson Lab, a Department of Energy (DOE) atom-smashing facility in Newport News.

An expert in superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) science, Ciovati is working currently on a $300 million project to increase the maximum electron energy of Jefferson Lab's mile-long accelerator from 6 GeV to 12 GeV. One GeV equals a billion electron volts.

"We are very proud of Gigi's success," said Gail Dodge, chair of ODU's Department of Physics and a nuclear physicist who conducts research at Jefferson Lab. "I take this as a good omen for our new Center for Accelerator Science." With support from Jefferson Lab, ODU offers an academic program in accelerator physics and last year launched a Center for Accelerator Science.

"This is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on young professionals in the early stages of their research careers," wrote Jefferson Lab Director Hugh Montgomery in a note to his staff. "Please join me in congratulating Gigi for this outstanding and well-deserved honor." (Ciovati is pictured with Montgomery at left and Andrew Hutton, associate director for the Jefferson Lab Accelerator Division. Photo by Greg Adams.)

In a prepared statement released Thursday, July 9, President Obama announced the recipient class of 2009 and said of them, "With their talent, creativity, and dedication, I am confident that they will lead their fields in new breakthroughs and discoveries and help us use science and technology to life up our nation and our world." The recipients will be invited to the White House later this year for an awards ceremony.

Ciovati was nominated for the award by the DOE, and 12 of the Early Career Award recipients work within the department. Eight other federal departments and agencies, including the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, also nominate candidates and have program recipients.

Before joining Jefferson Lab, Ciovati worked for the INFN nuclear physics facility in Milan, Italy, and he also has participated in the design and prototype development of superconducting cavities for the Spallation Neutron Source in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The 12 GeV Upgrade of the Jefferson Lab main accelerator that he is working on is designed to allow advances in key areas of nuclear physics, such as a better understanding of how the atomic nucleus is made up from its quark and gluon building blocks.

This article was posted on: July 15, 2009

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