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Road to High Energy Physics

Dr. Stephen Adler: Life in Science

AdlerDr. Stephen Adler’s parents decided to introduce him to the world of science early: he was two when he started playing with a gadget box and looking through a version of “Pat the Bunny” book.

Adler’s ‘actual’ career, however, began when he was in sixth grade, when he became the ‘radio expert’ at home. For the time it seemed like the young Adler was heading for a career in electronics. But soon a tour of the physics laboratories at Cornell University gave him his first glimpse into “the fascinating world of high energy physics”, and Adler was smitten.

By the end of his junior year in high school, Adler had decided he wanted to become a physicist.

When Adler entered Harvard to proceed with his physics education, he was already familiar with X-ray diffraction techniques, had trained at Bell Labs and taught himself calculus.

“I entered college intending to be an experimentalist,” writes Adler in the essay ‘From Elements of Radio to Elementary Particle Physics’ that appears in the ICTP book One Hundred Reasons to be a Scientist. Adler, however, shifted focus to theoretical physics when he realised that his strength lay in the theoretical aspects.

Alder writes that most of his significant contributions to high-energy physics had their foundation in his thesis work, which was on “calculation of pion production from nucleons by a neutrino beam."

For his expertise in using ‘sophisticated use of quantum field theory to illuminate physical problems’ and derivation of the Adler-Weisberger sum rule, Adler was awarded the Dirac medal in 1998.


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