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Prof. Pierre V. Sokolsky

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Utah Museum of Fine Arts

410 Campus Center Drive

Salt Lake City, Utah 84112

United States

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Background Information

Employment History


University of Utah College of Science

Chair, Physics Department

University of Utah Physics Department

Assistant Professor

Columbia University, Nevis Labs


Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy, Dean Emeritus, College of Science
University of Utah

The International Society for Optical Engineering

American Physical Society

Guggenheim Foundation


BA degree

University of Chicago


PhD degree

University of Illinois

Web References (165 Total References)

Enormous Cosmic Ray Detector Gets New Visitor Center in Delta [cached]

Pierre Sokolsky

"These particles are streaming towards us. It's like looking down the barrel of a gun," said professor Pierre Sokolsky, dean of the University of Utah's College of Science.
"Well, that's the billion dollar question," Sokolsky said.
Sokolsky said the effort to understand these awesome centers of energy in the Universe may go on for years. He said the knowledge that might come from that has an unknown potential for practical applications, but as a pure question of science, human curiosity makes it an exciting project.
"It's the mystery. It's the chase," said Sokolsky.

Study comfirms 1966 prediction [cached]

"It has been the goal of much of ultrahigh-energy cosmic ray physics for the past 40 years to find this cutoff or disprove it," says physics Professor Pierre Sokolsky, dean of the University of Utah College of Science and leader of the study by a collaboration of 60 scientists from seven research institutions.

Last November, the Auger observatory collaboration - to which Sokolsky also belongs - published a study suggesting that the highest-energy cosmic rays come from active galactic nuclei or AGNs, or the hearts of extremely active galaxies believed to harbor supermassive black holes.
"We still don't know where they're coming from, but they're coming from far away," Sokolsky says.
"Quite apart from arcane physics, we are talking about understanding the origin of the most energetic particles produced by the most energetic acceleration process in the universe," Sokolsky says.
Sokolsky and University of Utah physicist George Cassiday won the prestigious 2008 Panofsky Prize for developing the method.
Sokolsky says there is debate over whether the "ankle" represents cosmic rays that run out of "oomph" after being spewed by exploding stars in our galaxy, or the loss of energy predicted to occur when ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays from outside our galaxy collide with the big bang's afterglow, generating electrons and antimatter positrons.
The Telescope Array and Auger observatories will keep looking for the source of rare ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays that evade the big bang afterglow and reach Earth.
"The most reasonable assumption is they are coming from a class of active galactic nuclei called blazars," Sokolsky says.
Such a galaxy center is suspected to harbor a supermassive black hole with the mass of a billion or so suns. As matter is sucked into the black hole, nearby matter is spewed outward in the form of a beam-like jet. When such a jet is pointed at Earth, the galaxy is known as a blazar.
"It's like looking down the barrel of a gun," Sokolsky says.

Science Dean Named Distinguished Professor [cached]

Pierre V. Sokolsky, dean of the College of Science, was named a University of Utah Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy, effective July 1, 2011.

"The rank of Distinguished Professor is reserved for selected individuals whose achievements exemplify the highest goals of scholarship as demonstrated my recognition accorded to them from peers with national and international stature, and whose record includes evidence of a high dedication to teaching as demonstrated by recognition accorded to them by students and/or colleagues," according to University Policy and Procedures 6-300.
Sokolsky is a world-renowned expert in ultrahigh-energy particle physics, including gamma rays, cosmic rays, and neutrinos. He is a member of the American Physical Society and the International Society of Optical Engineering. In 1999, he was awarded the University of Utah Distinguished Research Award and, in 2002, was named a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. He has written several textbooks and book chapters and has published more than 200 papers, including 58 research articles in peer-reviewed journals.
He earned the Utah Governor's Medal for Science and Technology in 2006 for his distinguished service to the State of Utah in science and technology. Research projects initiated by Sokolsky have generated more than $14 million in funding support to the State of Utah and created jobs in optics and in the construction of buildings and roads.
In 2004, Sokolsky spearheaded the U's $17 million Telescope Array project to be located just west of Delta, Utah, to study ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays in collaboration with scientists form the University of New Mexico, the University of Montana, the University of Tokyo Institute for Cosmic Ray Research and several other Japanese universities. The research site, which includes 560 particle detectors and three fluorescence detectors, covers nearly 400 square miles and will be complete in September 2007. "This new experiment will increase the sensitivity to the highest-energy cosmic rays by tenfold," says Sokolsky.
Sokolsky also launched a long-term strategy to develop a comprehensive astronomy research program at the U, and to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in astronomy.

University of Utah Awarded $1 Million By Keck Foundation to Study Cosmic Rays [cached]

Other University of Utah researchers taking part in the study include: Pierre Sokolsky, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Dean of the College of Science; Behrouz Farhang-Boroujeny, professor and associate chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Gordon Thomson, the Jack W. Keuffel chair in experimental astrophysics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Cosmic Ray Study gets Down to Earth with $1 Million Grant [cached]

The researchers from the U's College of Science will be Pierre Sokolsky, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Dean of the College of Science, and Gordon Thomson, the Jack W. Keuffel chair in experimental astrophysics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

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