Notre Dame physicist among 2015 Breakthrough Prize winners

Author: Marissa Gebhard

Peter Garnavich

Peter Garnavich
Peter Garnavich

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes in Fundamental Physics and Life Sciences. The foundation awarded $36 million in prizes to the world’s top scientists, including the High-Z Supernova Search Team, of which Peter Garnavich, professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, is a member.

The 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics has been awarded to the High-Z Supernova Search Team and the Supernova Cosmology Project for their most unexpected discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. In all, 50 astronomers played a role in the research, and all will get a piece of the prize, which will be split between two research teams.

The annual Breakthrough Prizes, which include a trophy and $3 million to each laureate in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics, are sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, a founder of the genetics company 23andMe; Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. The goal is to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career.

Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt represented the High-Z Supernova Search Team, which includes Peter Challis, Alejandro Clocchiatti, Alan Diercks, Alexei V. Filippenko, Peter M. Garnavich, Ron L. Gilliland, Craig J. Hogan, Saurabh Jha, Robert P. Kirshner, Bruno Leibundgut, Mark M. Phillips, David Reiss, R. Chris Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Christopher Stubbs, Nicholas B. Suntzeff and John Tonry. The Supernova Cosmology Project Team B was represented by Saul Perlmutter; team members are Greg Aldering, Brian J. Boyle, Patricia G. Castro, Warrick J. Couch, Susana Deustua, Richard S. Ellis, Sebastien Fabbro, Alexei V. Filippenko, Andrew S. Fruchter, Ariel Goobar, Donald E. Groom, Isobel M. Hook, Mike Irwin, Alex G. Kim, Matthew Y. Kim, Robert A. Knop, Julia C. Lee, Chris Lidman, Thomas Matheson, Richard G. McMahon, Richard Muller, Heidi J. M. Newberg, Peter Nugent, Nelson J. Nunes, Reynald Pain, Nino Panagia, Carl R. Pennypacker, Robert Quimby, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Bradley E. Schaefer and Nicholas Walton.

The second annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony was held in Silicon Valley. The star-studded event was hosted by actor and comedian Seth McFarlane along with the award’s creators and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Presenters were actors Kate Beckinsale, Cameron Diaz, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Hamm and Eddie Redmayne.

The ceremony will be broadcast by the Discovery Channel and Science Channel on Nov. 15 in the U.S., and by the BBC World News the weekend of Nov. 22.

Contact: Peter Garnavich, 574-631-7262;

Originally published by Marissa Gebhard at on November 11, 2014.