Sally Dawson

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Image of Sally Dawson

Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date
Video conference
Usage Information and Disclaimer
Disclaimer text

This transcript is based on a tape-recorded interview deposited at the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics. The AIP's interviews have generally been transcribed from tape, edited by the interviewer for clarity, and then further edited by the interviewee. If this interview is important to you, you should consult earlier versions of the transcript or listen to the original tape. For many interviews, the AIP retains substantial files with further information about the interviewee and the interview itself. Please contact us for information about accessing these materials.

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Preferred citation

In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:

Interview of Sally Dawson by David Zierler on April 19, 2021,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,

For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.


Interview with Sally Dawson, Senior Scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory and head of the high energy theory group there. Dawson recounts her childhood in Cleveland where her father was a rocket scientist for NASA. She describes her undergraduate education at Duke and how she came to focus on physics. Dawson cites the formative influence of Howard Georgi during her graduate work on proton decay and precision calculations at Harvard. She discusses her postdoctoral research in the theory group at Fermilab and her focus on some of the theoretical implications of the Tevatron project. Dawson surveys the research on supersymmetry and the Higgs mass at that time, and she explains her decision to join the scientific staff at Brookhaven where Mike Creutz and Bill Marciano were doing research of interest to her. Dawson discusses her long-term efforts to search for new physics beyond the Standard Model and she describes her book the Higgs Hunter’s Guide. She surveys what is known and unknown about the Higgs boson, and she discusses the g-2 muon experiment at Brookhaven and its relation to the current experiment at Fermilab. Dawson explains the value of the Snowmass process in achieving a high-level and future-oriented view of where the field is headed, and why the discovery of the Higgs demonstrated the overall accuracy of the Standard Model. She surveys the new questions that can be probed following the Higgs discovery and the complementary nature of neutrino precision measurements for this research. At the end of the interview, Dawson discusses her outreach efforts to emphasize that particle theory is not “dead,” why she sees advisory work as a vital service to the field, and why over the course of her career, experimentalists have provided more guidance to theorists, and not vice-versa.


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