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Prized Connections: Visiting Professor Cited in Physics Nobel Background

October 10, 2008

Prized Connections: Visiting Professor Cited in Physics Nobel Background

Only two years after Moo-Young “Mike” Han completed his doctorate at the University of Rochester, he received a surprising phone call. Yoichiro Nambu, an established physicist, had read a draft paper of Han’s and - in a perfect example of scientific cooperation rather than competition - suggested that the two collaborate.

“I was honored,” Han said, “We put those two papers together, his draft and my draft, and it was well received. The collaboration received more attention than I ever could have found on my own, and then Dr. Nambu and I began more collaborations. We published three papers together and became good friends.”

In that first paper, Han said, they introduced the concept of what has become known as the color charges of quarks.

Today, Nambu is one of three Nobel laureates in
Physicsfor 2008. His work was lauded as vital to our understanding of the matter/antimatter balance in the universe and the establishment of the Standard Model in physics.

Han, who is credited in the Nobel background materials for his work with Nambu, is a well known scientist and author in his own right. Duke University is his home campus, but through his acquaintance with
Chancellor Steve Kang, he is also a visiting professor this semester at the University of California, Merced. He’s teaching an upper-division general education course, 20th Century Physics and Society, and a freshman seminar.

“It’s very lively,” he said of the seminar course. “The students just got here, and it’s an exciting experience for them.”

Several threads in the particle physics world are crossing at this new UC campus. Nicola Cabibbo, who was also credited in the scientific background document for this year’s Nobel in Physics, visited the campus just last month as a guest of the campus first solar energy symposium. Han said it was the first time he had met Cabibbo.

Cabibbo, in turn, has an established collaboration with UC Merced Professor
Roland Winston, who in 2004 published
an important validation of workpreviously done by Cabibbo and this year’s other Nobel laureates, Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa.

What does all this mean for a new research university? It’s hard to say, Han said, but he’s optimistic.

“This campus has a future,” he said, “No question about it.”