10/18/2002 07:00:00

President Bush Nominates Caltech Physicist To National Science Board

Barry Barish, an experimental high-energy physicist at the California Institute of Technology, has been nominated to the National Science Board by President George W. Bush. The White House made the announcement Thursday, October 17.

Barish is the Linde Professor of Physics at Caltech, and since 1997 has been director of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) project, a National Science Foundation–funded collaboration between Caltech and MIT for detecting gravitational waves from exotic sources such as colliding black holes. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

The eight new appointees must be approved by the U.S. Senate. If they are accepted, Barish will help oversee the National Science Foundation and advise the president and the congress on a broad range of policy issues related to science, engineering, and education. The 24-member board initiates and conducts studies, presents the results and board recommendations in reports and policy statements to the president and the congress, and makes these documents available to the research and educational communities and the general public.

The board meets in Washington, D.C., at least five times a year, with individual members also serving on committees. The board also publishes the biennial Science and Engineering Indicators.

As a high-energy physicist, Barish has been involved through the years with some of the highest-profile projects in the United States and abroad. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Barish has been at Caltech since 1963. He was leader of one of the large detectors for the Superconducting Supercollider before the project was cancelled, searched for magnetic monopoles in the underground experiment below the Gran Sasso Mountain in Italy, performed several experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and is presently involved in the neutrino experiment inside the Soudan Underground Mine in Minnesota.

He was also responsible for the experiment at Fermilab that provided definitive evidence of the weak neutral current, the linchpin of the electroweak theory for which Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg won the Nobel Prize.

The project he currently leads, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, recently began collecting data in the quest to study gravitational waves, which were predicted long ago by Einstein but thus far have been detected only indirectly. The LIGO project aims not only to demonstrate the existence of gravitational waves within the next few years, but also to pioneer a new type of astrophysical observation by studying exotic objects such as colliding black holes, supernovae, and neutron-star and black-hole interactions.

The National Science Board was created by an act of congress in 1950. Its official mission is to "promote the progress of science; advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and secure the national defense."

Contact: Robert Tindol (626) 395-3631