David Nitz, left, and Brian Fick Adam Johnson Photo
David Nitz, left, and Brian Fick Adam Johnson Photo

Nitz, Fick Honored for Astrophysics Research

by Jennifer Donovan

David Nitz and Brian Fick have been named corecipients of Michigan Tech's 2010 Research Award. Both are professors of physics and international experts in experimental particle astrophysics. They research the source of ultrahigh energy cosmic rays, the most energetic and rarest particles in the universe.

"Normally, this award recognizes outstanding individual achievement, but in this case it makes perfect sense for this to be a joint award," said David Reed, vice president for research.

Nitz and Fick brought the work of the international Pierre Auger Observatory research project to Michigan Tech, including more than $3 million in federal funding. They have worked with the Auger project, an international collaboration involving seventeen countries and more than ninety research institutions, since its inception in 1992.

Nitz is among the leaders of the project's first observatory in Argentina, heading the development of a triggering framework for the ground array there and the implementation of the first level trigger—electronics that determine if the signals picked up by the observatory's detectors are likely to be ultrahigh energy cosmic rays. He also serves as Northern Hemisphere scientific spokesperson for a second observatory planned in the US.

Fick worked from the beginning on the design of the Auger Observatory. He chaired the committee that developed the inter-detector triggering mechanism and now is co-coordinator of a "Search for Exotic Physics" analysis.

"We are honored to have been selected among the many great researchers at Michigan Tech," said Fick. "We could not have done our work without the continued support of our home institution."

Nitz added, "I second Brian's comments. The phenomenally supportive atmosphere for our research at Michigan Tech across all levels of the University has been an important asset. Our collaboration with engineering colleagues is something our Auger collaborators strive to emulate. They envy the enthusiastic support our administration provides us.