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Nicole Ackerman | SLAC | USA

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Physics Family Trees

In a variety of fields of science, people keep track of their “academic family tree”. I’ve seen it traced through PhD advisors, but perhaps other fields do it somewhat differently. It isn’t as common in experimental physics as it is in other fields – some specialties have their own websites – but I hear theorists value it more.

Recently I saw an article in Symmetry Magazine regarding the physics family tree. While I absolutely love Spires, I had never explored the HEPNAMES section before. It isn’t perfectly up-to-date; it seems to rely on self-reporting. However, I did learn some things. I already knew that my “academic grandfather” was Jerome Friedman, one of the winners of the 1990 Nobel Prize. I did not know that his advisor was Enrico Fermi! Interestingly, of the 14 students listed on HEPNAMES for Enrico Fermi, 7 have the Nobel Prize. It seems like the people who run Spires have a great sense of humor – physicists who have retired, passed away, or left physics are signified with an icon. The icon for “left physics” is a dollar sign!

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