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SBU Physicist Barry Barish Awarded National Medal of Science

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President Joe Biden presents the National Medal of Science to Barry Barish at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on October 24. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Barry Barish, the President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics at Stony Brook University, was one of nine people awarded the prestigious National Medal of Science by President Joe Biden.

Barish, a world-renowned experimental physicist and Nobel Laureate who joined Stony Brook’s Department of Physics and Astronomy earlier this year, received the award October 24 from President Biden at the White House. The prestigious award is among the highest honors in the scientific community.

Barish was acknowledged for his “exemplary service to science, including groundbreaking research on sub-atomic particles,” said the military aide who announced the awards. “His leadership of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory [LIGO] led to the first detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes, confirming a key part of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. He has broadened our understanding of the universe and our nation’s sense of wonder and discovery.”

“The National Medal of Science presented to Professor Barish, Stony Brook’s inaugural President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics, is the latest honor marking his exceptional career dedicated to discovery, innovation and excellence,” said Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis. “Joined by President Biden and other scientists and innovators during the White House ceremony, it was a proud moment for Stony Brook as he received the nation’s highest honors for science. He is truly an inspiration to his students and colleagues, and I am grateful for his teaching and mentorship that inspires all of us by his example.”

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Barry Barish is the President’s Distinguished Endowed Chair in Physics. Photo by John Griffin.

“Although this medal recognizes Barry’s scientific achievements, it also recognizes his broader contributions to the US scientific community through his services on key committees, panels and leadership positions,” said Chang Kee Jung, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “We are lucky to have him here at Stony Brook. Even with his packed schedule, recently he volunteered to teach an undergraduate course in addition to his graduate course, demonstrating his unwavering passion and dedication for teaching and education. He is an inspiration to all of us.” 

Barish shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the observation of gravitational waves with the historic Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment. This research proved the ripples in the fabric of space and time that were predicted by Albert Einstein 100 years earlier. Barish is also an esteemed educator at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California, Riverside, as well as a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Physical Society, where he also served as president.

President Biden awarded the National Medal of Science and the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to Americans who have made exemplary achievements in science, technology, and innovation to strengthen our nation’s well-being.

The National Medal of Science is the nation’s highest scientific honor. Established by Congress in 1959 and administered by the U.S. National Science Foundation, it is bestowed by the President of the United States on individuals deserving of special recognition for their outstanding contributions in biology, computer sciences, education sciences, engineering, geosciences, mathematical and physical sciences, and social, behavioral, and economic sciences, in service to the nation.

In 2009, Stony Brook adjunct professor of chemistry Joanna Fowler was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama.

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