Baltimore particle physicist wins top prize for cultural, artistic or humanistic contributions to physics for producing a documentary about the Large Hadron Collider.
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 23, 2018 -- The American Institute of Physics announced today that particle physicist and movie producer David Kaplan has won the 2018 Andrew Gemant Award, an annual prize recognizing contributions to the cultural, artistic and humanistic dimension of physics.
The award includes a cash prize of $5,000 and a grant of $3,000 to further the public communication of physics at an institution of Kaplan’s choice.
Currently, Kaplan is a professor in the physics and astronomy department at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Kaplan is known in the world of particle physics for his work on the theoretical underpinnings of the Higgs boson, for his work on asymmetric dark matter and for experimental search strategies now being implemented at the Large Hadron Collider. The Gemant Award recognizes Kaplan’s achievements as the producer of "Particle Fever," a documentary about the Large Hadron Collider’s first discoveries.
“We are absolutely thrilled to present Dr. Kaplan with this year’s Gemant award,” said AIP CEO Michael Moloney. “His work captures the fundamental human experience at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, where groundbreaking discoveries have helped reveal some of the most fundamental secrets of our physical universe.”
In 1999, Kaplan earned his doctorate in physics from the University of Washington and went on to hold research positions at Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Chicago, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Before pursuing physics as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkley, Kaplan completed a year of film school at Chapman College. This experience shaped his filmmaking, he said. “The movie I made was for the curious non-physicist -- for the other version of myself had I not gone into physics.” Kaplan said. He described it as “a story about people working together to discover ultimate truth.”
Growing up, Kaplan always enjoyed science documentaries but found they often fell short. “Science always felt like something that’s distinct from the rest of humanity and you’d learn about it on these shows, but it felt like you were being lectured to and you didn’t see the actual life behind it,” he said. “People are vulnerable and make a lot of mistakes, struggle, and compete, so I thought someone should tell the actual story, the experience.”
Kaplan emphasized the film’s intimate nature. “I wanted to give the experiential version of the story where people would learn the science only because it was a key part of the narrative -- it wasn’t the goal to teach them physics. You can’t learn particle physics in 90 minutes, but you can experience the process of it,” Kaplan said.
Since critically acclaimed release of “Particle Fever,” Kaplan has stayed engaged in both research and science outreach. In addition to teaching, Kaplan has been producing short instructional videos about physics for the online science magazine Quanta and developing new film and TV ideas based on the lives of scientists.
An invited public lecture will be scheduled later this year, where Kaplan will be presented with the award. More information about the award, which will be updated with the details of this year’s award presentation, can be found at https://www.aip.org/aip/awards/gemant-award.
ABOUT DAVID KAPLAN
David E. Kaplan received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 1999. He had postdocs at the University of Chicago/Argonne National Lab and SLAC and joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2002. Kaplan discovers possible theoretical extensions to the standard model of particle physics and cosmology, and then novel ways to discover those and other models. Kaplan is a Fellow of the APS, and has been named an Outstanding Junior Investigator by the DOE, a Kavli Frontiers Fellow of the NAS and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. He has also created and produced the documentary film, "Particle Fever," for which he has won a DuPont Journalism Award, and other accolades.
ABOUT THE GEMANT AWARD
The Andrew Gemant Award recognizes the accomplishments of a person who has made significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics given annually. The award is made possible by a bequest of Andrew Gemant to the American Institute of Physics. The awardee receives a $5,000 cash award, designates an academic institution to receive a grant of $3,000 to further the public communication of physics, and is invited to deliver a public lecture in a suitable forum.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS
The American Institute of Physics is a federation of scientific societies in the physical sciences, representing scientists, engineers, educators, and students. AIP offers authoritative information, services, and expertise in physics education and student programs, science communication, government relations, career services, statistical research in physics employment and education, industrial outreach, and history of the physical sciences. AIP publishes Physics Today, the most closely followed magazine of the physical sciences community, and is also home to the Society of Physics Students and the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. AIP owns AIP Publishing LLC, a scholarly publisher in the physical and related sciences. www.aip.org
American Institute of Physics