Major awards and prizes won by Physics faculty and staff

National and International Awards

* Awardee is also an MIT alum.
Awardee is an Emeritus Professor.
^ Awardee is deceased
.
+ Awardee w
as previously an MIT faculty member

AAAS Members

Academy members are world leaders in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy, and public affairs. They are based across the United States and around the world. These elected members join with other experts to explore challenges facing society, identify solutions, and promote nonpartisan recommendations that advance the public good.


Rumford Prize

Founded in 1796, the Rumford Prize, awarded by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, is one of the oldest scientific prizes in the United States. The prize recognizes contributions by scientists to the fields of heat and light. These terms are widely interpreted; awards range from discoveries in thermodynamics to improvements in the construction of steam boilers.

The award was created through the endowment of US$5,000 to the Academy by Benjamin Thompson, who held the title “Count Rumford of the United Kingdom,” in 1796. The terms state that the award be given to “authors of discoveries in any part of the Continent of America, or in any of the American islands.” Although it was founded in 1796, the first prize was not given until 1839, as the academy could not find anyone who, in their judgement, deserved the award. The academy found the terms of the prize to be too restrictive, and in 1832 the Supreme Court of Massachusetts allowed the Academy to change some of the provisions; mainly, the award was to be given annually instead of biennially, and the Academy was allowed to award the prize as it saw fit, whereas before it had to give it yearly. The first award was given to Robert Hare, for his invention of the oxy-hydrogen blowpipe, in 1839. Twenty-three years elapsed before the award was given a second time, to John Ericsson.

The prize is awarded whenever the academy recognizes a significant achievement in either of the two fields. Awardees receive a gold-and-silver medal.

  • 1985 // Martin Deutsch^ (co-recipient with Hans Georg Dehmelt, Vernon Willard Hughes, and Norman Foster Ramsey) “for his work in the field of atomic spectroscopy.”
  • 1976 // Bruno Rossi^ “for discovering the origins of cosmic radiation.”
  • 1971 // MIT Group (John. A Ball, Alan H. Barrett, Bernard F. Burke^, Joseph C. Carter, Patricia P. Crowther, James M. Moran Jr., Alan E. E. Rogers) (co-recipients with Canadian and NRAO-Cornell Groups) “for their work in the field of long-baseline interferometry.”
  • 1961 // Charles H. Townes+^ “for his development of the laser.”
  • 1891 // Edward Charles Pickering^ “for his work on stellar photometry and stellar spectra.”

AAAS Fellows are a distinguished cadre of scientists, engineers and innovators who have been recognized for their achievements across disciplines, from research, teaching, and technology, to administration in academia, industry and government, to excellence in communicating and interpreting science to the public.

In a tradition stretching back to 1874, these individuals are elected annually by the AAAS Council. Newly elected Fellows are recognized for their extraordinary achievements at the ceremonial Fellows Forum, a time-honored event at the AAAS Annual Meeting where they are presented with a certificate and blue and gold rosette.    

John David Jackson Award for Excellence in Graduate Physics Education

The John David Jackson Award for Excellence in Graduate Physics Education is presented to physicists and physics educators who, like John David Jackson after whom the award is named, have made outstanding contributions to curriculum development, mentorship, or classroom teaching in graduate physics education.The recipient delivers an address at the AAPT Meeting at which the award is presented and receives a monetary award, an Award Certificate, a copy of the citation, and travel expenses to the meeting. Previous winners of the Oersted Medal or the Robert A. Millikan Medal are not eligible for this award. The award is presented only occasionally. Self-nomination is not appropriate for this award. Preference in the selection of the recipient will be given to members of AAPT.


Robert A. Millikan Award

The Robert A. Millikan award is a medal given to individuals who provide notable contributions to the teaching of physics. The award was established in 1962 and is awarded by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The winner receives a monetary award and certificate and delivers an address at an AAPT summer meeting.

  • 1965 // John G. King^ – “The Undergraduate Physics Laboratory and Reality”

Oersted Medal

The Oersted Medal, established in 1936, recognizes those who have had an outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics. The recipient delivers an address at an AAPT Winter Meeting and receives a monetary award, the Oersted Medal, an Award Certificate, and travel expenses to the meeting. Self-nomination is not appropriate for this award. Preference in the selection of the recipient will be given to members of AAPT.

  • 2016 // John W. Belcher
  • 2008 // Mildred S. Dresselhaus^
  • 2000 // John G. King^
  • 1997 // Daniel Kleppner
  • 1989 // Anthony P. French^
  • 1976 // Victor F. Weisskopf^
  • 1965 // Philip Morrison^
  • 1963 // Francis L. Friedman^ (Posthumous Award)
  • 1961 // Jerrold R. Zacharias^

Richtmyer Memorial Award

The Richtmyer Memorial Award is an award for physics education, named for physicist Floyd K. Richtmyer and given annually by the American Association of Physics Teachers.

  • 1989 // Robert J. Birgeneau – “Novel Magnetic Phenomena in High Temperature Superconductors –How Are They Connected?” Am. J. Phys.58 , 28 (1990).
  • 1951 // John C. Slater^ – “The Electron Theory of Solids,” Am. J. Phys.19 , 368 (1951).

Bruno Rossi Prize

The Bruno Rossi Prize is awarded annually by the High Energy Astrophysics division of the American Astronomical Society “for a significant contribution to High Energy Astrophysics, with particular emphasis on recent, original work”. Named after astrophysicist Bruno Rossi, the prize is awarded with a certificate and a gift of USD $500, and was first awarded in 1985 to William R. Forman and Christine Jones Forman “for pioneering work in the study of X-ray emission from early type galaxies”.

  • 2017 // LIGO Scientific Collaboration (co-recipient with Gabriela Gonzalez) “for the direct detection of gravitational waves and the use of these waves to reveal merging binary black holes.”
  • 2014 // Tracy R. Slatyer (co-recipient with Douglas Finkbeiner and Meng Su) “for their discovery, in gamma rays, of the large unanticipated Galactic structure now called the “Fermi Bubbles.”
  • 2006 // Deepto Chakrabarty* (co-recipient with Tod Strohmayer and Rudy Wijnands) “for their pioneering research which revealed millisecond spin periods and established the powerful diagnostic tool of kilohertz intensity oscillations in accreting neutron star binary systems.”
  • 1999 // Hale Bradt* (co-recipient with Jean Swank) “for their key roles in the development of the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer, and for the resulting important discoveries related to high time resolution observations of compact astrophysical objects.”

Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize

The Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize is awarded every other year by the American Astronomical Society in recognition of an outstanding research contribution to astronomy or astrophysics of an exceptionally creative or innovative character. The prize is named in honor of the cosmologist and astronomer Beatrice Tinsley.

  • 1988 // Edward M. Purcell+ (co-recipient with Harold I. Ewen) “discoverers of the 21 cm radiation from hydrogen.”

Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy

The Helen B. Warner Prize for Astronomy is awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society to a young astronomer (aged less than 36, or within 8 years of the award of their PhD) for a significant contribution to observational or theoretical astronomy.


Karl Taylor Compton Award

The Karl Taylor Compton Medal recognizes distinguished physicists for outstanding statesmanship in science. The award established in 1957 by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in honor of Karl Taylor Compton, first chairman and one of the principal founders of AIP, for his tireless work as a combination scientist-statesman and statesman-scientist. Intended primarily for U.S. physicists, the award is now given every two years, or when it appears appropriate. It consists of a medal, a certificate, and a cash award of $10,000. The award is supported by a restricted/endowed fund.

  • 2012 // Robert J. Birgeneaufor his leadership in improving the situation for women in science in the United States and around the world, his efforts to enhance diversity in science, and for deepening our understanding of magnetism and its interplay with other states of matter.”
  • 2000 // Mildred S. Dresselhaus^ “in recognition of her outstanding contributions to condensed matter physics, and to the science and engineering community through dedicated and effective service in numerous leadership positions.”
  • 1992 // Victor E. Weisskopf^ “in recognition of his leadership throughout the world in advancing science, in promoting peace, and seeking solutions to world problems.”

Andrew Gemant Award

The Andrew Gemant Award recognizes the accomplishments of a person who has made significant contributions to the cultural, artistic, or humanistic dimension of physics and is given annually. The award is made possible by a bequest of Andrew Gemant to the American Institute of Physics.

The awardee receives a $5,000 cash award, designates an academic institution to receive a grant of $3,000 to further the public communication of physics, and is invited to deliver a public lecture in a suitable forum.

  • 1987 // Philip Morrison^ “for deep and broad contributions to our understanding of the aesthetic dimension of physics. In our day of specialists, he is the ultimate generalist, celebrating the joy of unbridled intellectual curiosity. Through his writings, his stimulation of others, his teaching of colleagues and students, his films and television production, he has epitomized the values embodied in the Gemant Award.” (inaugural winner)

Election to the American Philosophical Society honors extraordinary accomplishments in all fields. The APS is unusual among learned societies because its Membership is comprised of top scholars from a wide variety of academic disciplines.


APS Fellows

The APS Fellowship Program was created to recognize members who may have made advances in physics through original research and publication, or made significant innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology. They may also have made significant contributions to the teaching of physics or service and participation in the activities of the Society.

Fellowship is a distinct honor signifying recognition by one’s professional peers. Each year, no more than one half of one percent of the Society’s membership (excluding student members) is recognized by their peers for election to the status of Fellow of the American Physical Society.


Einstein Prize

Since 2003, the Einstein Prize is a biennial prize awarded by the American Physical Society. The recipients are chosen for their outstanding accomplishments in the field of gravitational physics. The prize is named after Albert Einstein (1879-1955), who authored the theories of special and general relativity. The prize was established by the Topical Group on Gravitation at the beginning of 1999. As of 2013, the prize is valued at $10,000.

  • 2007 // Rainer Weiss■* (co-recipient with Ronald Drever) “for fundamental contributions to the development of gravitational wave detectors based on optical interferometry, leading to the successful operation of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory.

Excellence in Physics Education Award

To recognize a team, collaboration, or an exceptional individual who has exhibited a sustained commitment to excellence in physics education. The award, presented annually, consists of a $5,000 monetary award, a certificate citing the achievements of the group or individual, and an allowance for travel expenses to the APS April Meeting where the award is presented.

  • 2007 // Physical Science Study Committee (PSSC) and Implementers (John H. Dodge, Anthony P. French^, Robert Gardner, Edwin (Ned) Goldwasser, Robert Hulsizer^, John G. King^, Uri Haber-Schaim) “for the revitalization of subject matter through the involvement of teachers and researchers at all levels, the elevation of the instructional role of the laboratory, the development and utilization of innovative instructional media, and the emphasis on discipline-centered inquiry and the nature of physics, PSSC Physics has had a major and ongoing influence on physics education at the national level.“

Herman Feshbach Prize in Theoretical Nuclear Physics

The Herman Feshbach Prize in Theoretical Nuclear Physics is a prize awarded annually by the American Physical Society to recognize and encourage outstanding achievements in theoretical nuclear physics. The $10,000 prize is in honor of Herman Feshbach of MIT. The prize, inaugurated in 2014, is awarded to one person or is shared among two to three persons when all of the recipients are credited with the same accomplishment.

  • 2014 // John W. Negele (inaugural winner) “for lifetime contributions to nuclear many-body theory including identifying mechanisms for saturation and relating the Skyrme interaction to fundamental nuclear forces; and for initiating and leading efforts to understand the nucleon using lattice QCD.

Stuart Jay Freedman Award in Experimental Nuclear Physics

This award is presented annually to an outstanding early career experimentalist in nuclear physics. The award will consist of an $4,000, a certificate, a registration waiver, and an allowance for travel to the Fall Meeting of the APS Division of Nuclear Physics (DNP) to give an invited prize talk and receive the award. 

  • 2019 // Or Hen “for innovative, wide-ranging experiments that found important manifestations of nuclear neutron-proton short-range correlations.

Maria Goeppert Mayer Award

To recognize and enhance outstanding achievement by a woman physicist in the early years of her career, and to provide opportunities for her to present these achievements to others through public lectures in the spirit of Maria Goeppert Mayer. The award consists of $3,000 plus a travel allowance to provide opportunities for the recipient to give lectures in her field of physics at up to three institutions and at the meeting of the Society at which the award is bestowed and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. The award will be presented annually.

  • 2021 // Phiala E. Shanahan “for key insights into the structure and interactions of hadrons and nuclei using numerical and analytical methods and pioneering the use of machine learning techniques in lattice quantum field theory calculations in particle and nuclear physics.
  • 2001 // Janet M. Conrad “for her leadership in experimental neutrino physics, particularly for initiating and leading the NuTeV decay channel experiment and the Mini-BooNE neutrino oscillations experiment, which are noted for their timeliness and significance in resolving frontier issues in neutrino physics.
  • 1995 // Jacqueline N. Hewitt* “for her contribution to radio astronomy; in particular, her pioneering work in detection of gravitational lenses, including the discovery of the first Einstein ring, and their detailed investigation, using polarization, time-delay, and other measurements.

Dannie Heineman Prize for Mathematical Physics

This prize recognizes outstanding publications in the field of mathematical physics. The prize consists of $10,000 and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient plus travel expenses to attend the meeting at which the prize is bestowed. It will be presented annually.

  • 2006 // Daniel Z. Freedman “for constructing supergravity, the first supersymmetric extension of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and for their central role in its subsequent development.
  • 1995 // Roman W. Jackiw “for his imaginative use of quantum field theory to throw light on physical problems, including his work on topological solitons, field theory at high temperatures, the existence of anomalies, and the role of these anomalies in particle physics.
  • 1981 // Jeffrey Goldstone “for his contribution to nuclear physics, condensed matter physics and to quantum field theory, in establishing the first rigorous diagrammatic technique for the many-body problem and in proving a fundamental theorem on spontaneously broken global symmetry.

Joseph F. Keithley Award For Advances in Measurement Science

To recognize physicists who have been instrumental in the development of measurement techniques or equipment that have impact on the physics community by providing better measurements. The prize consists of $5,000 and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. It is presented annually.

  • 2013 // Nergis Mavalvala* (co-recipient with David McClelland and Roman Schnabel) “for seminal contributions to the development and application of quantum metrological methods, in particular of squeezed light sources and optical springs, enabling sensitive measurements beyond the standard quantum limit.

Rolf Landauer and Charles H. Bennett Award in Quantum Computing

This award recognizes recent outstanding contributions in quantum information science, especially using quantum effects to perform computational and information-management tasks that would be impossible or infeasible by purely classical means. The award is given annually and will consist of $5,000 and a certificate citing the contributions of the recipient, plus an allowance for travel to an APS meeting to receive the award and deliver an invited lecture.

  • 2018 // Aram W. Harrow* “for outstanding accomplishments in the mathematics of quantum information, and the development of new algorithmic primitives for quantum computers.

Irving Langmuir Award in Chemical Physics

To recognize and encourage outstanding interdisciplinary research in chemistry and physics, in the spirit of Irving Langmuir. This biennial award consists of $5,000 and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. In even-numbered years, the American Chemical Society selects the award recipient and presents the award. In odd-numbered years, the American Physical Society selects the award recipient and presents the award. An allowance is provided for travel expenses of the recipient to the meeting of the Society at which the award is to be bestowed.

  • 1995 // George Benedek “for his outstanding invention of dynamic light scattering spectroscopy and its fundamental applications to critical phenomena, macromolecular transport, and ocular diseases.
  • 1994 // J. David Litster* “for pioneering experimental and theoretical studies of the phases and phase transitions of thermotropic liquid crystals.
  • 1967 // John C. Slater^ “for his penetrating analysis by calculations of his own and of the many students he guided, of the mechanisms which bond atoms in molecules and solids.

Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize

To recognize outstanding contributions to physics and exceptional skills in lecturing to diverse audiences. The prize consists of $10,000, a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient, an allowance for travel to the APS Medal and Prize Ceremony and Reception in Washington D.C. January 30, 2020 and an invited talk at an APS March or April Meeting, plus expenses for the three lectures by the recipient given at an APS meeting, a research university, and a predominantly undergraduate institution. The prize will be presented annually.

  • 2003 // Frank Wilczek “for his role in the development of asymptotic freedom and other aspects of quantum chromodynamics, a cornerstone of the standard model; for his remarkable versatility in research in condensed matter and astrophysics as well as particle physics; and for his outstanding ability to lecture and write with clarity, profundity, and enthusiasm.
  • 2000 // Robert J. Birgeneau “for using neutron and x-ray scattering to elucidate the structure, phase transitions, and excitations of materials that are paradigms of important statistical mechanical models, and for his ability to convey the excitement of physics to a broad range of audiences.
  • 1992 // Alan H. Guth* (co-recipient with Claude N. Cohen-Tannoudji) “for his concept of the inflationary universe which has revolutionized the way in which cosmologists think about the earliest moments of the universe. The clarity of his presentations, both written and spoken, have made his important ideas accessible to expert and layman alike.
  • 1991 // Daniel Kleppner “for his contributions to the development of the atomic hydrogen maser and other techniques for precise spectroscopy of neutral atoms, and for the clarity of his expositions of the physics involved.”

James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics

To recognize outstanding contributions to the field of plasma physics. The prize consists of $10,000, an allowance for registration and travel to the meeting at which the prize is awarded, and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. The prize will be presented annually.

  • 2009 // Miklos Porkolab “for pioneering investigations of linear and nonlinear plasma waves and wave-particle interactions; fundamental contributions to the development of plasma heating, current drive and diagnostics; and leadership in promoting plasma science education and domestic and international collaborations.
  • 1987 // Bruno Coppi “for outstanding contributions to fundamental theory, experimental interpretation and engineering design in fusion research. Among his theoretical discoveries are the ion mixing, impurity gradient, and ubiquitous modes and his work on m=1 tearing has recently been extended to explain anomalous loss of fast particles. His experimental interpretations include confinement scalings, slideaway electrons, detailed transport laws, and the principle of profile consistency. He has pioneered in the conceptual and engineering design of high field tokamaks, many of which now operate successfully, and which serve as the basis for proposals for low cost fusion ignition devices such as Ignitor.”

Dwight Nicholson Medal for Outreach

This award recognizes the humanitarian aspect of physics and physicists created through public lectures and public media, teaching, research, or science related activities. Recognition consists of a stipend of $2,000, Nicholson medal, and a certificate which includes the citation for which the recipient has been recognized. Up to $1,500 will be available for the recipient’s travel expenses to the meeting at which the Medal is presented. It will be presented annually.

  • 1999 // Mildred S. Dresselhaus^ (co-recipient with Fay Ajzenberg-Selove) “for being a compassionate mentor and lifelong friend to young scientists; for setting high standards as researchers, teachers and citizens; and for promoting international ties in science.
  • 1997 // Henry W. Kendall^ “for his important role in creating and leading the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has had a lasting impact on many scientific issues of concern to society, and for his outstanding personal contributions to these areas and education at all levels.

W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics

To recognize and encourage outstanding achievements in experimental particle physics. The prize consists of $10,000, an allowance for travel to the meeting at which the prize is to be awarded, and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. It is presented annually.

  • 1989 // Jerome I. Friedman and Henry W. Kendall^* (co-recipients with Richard E. Taylor) “for their leadership in the first experiments on the deep inelastic scattering of electrons with protons, deuterons, and heavier nuclei. These lepton-nucleon scattering experiments which were the vehicle for the discovery of the “scaling” phenomenon, gave the first direct evidence for a charged, point-like substructure inside the nucleon. The results of these high quality experiments still stand and have been supported and extended to higher energies and momentum transfers by later experiments with electrons, muons and neutrinos.

Henry Primakoff Award for Early-Career Particle Physics

To recognize outstanding contributions made by early-career physicists and helps promote the careers of exceptionally promising physicists. The prize is given annually and will consist of $3,000 and a certificate citing the contributions of the recipient, plus an allowance for travel to an APS meeting to receive the award and deliver an invited lecture.

  • 2017 // Tracy R. Slatyer “for innovative theoretical calculations and data analyses of the multi-wavelength sky to probe the nature of dark matter.

I.I. Rabi Prize in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics

The I. I. Rabi Prize in Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics is given by the American Physical Society to recognize outstanding work by mid-career researchers in the field of atomic, molecular, and optical physics. The award was endowed in 1989 in honor of the physicist and former Rad Lab employee I. I. Rabi and has been awarded biannually since 1991.

  • 2017 // Martin Zwierlein* “for seminal studies of ultracold Fermi gases, including precision measurements of the equation of state, the observation of superfluidity, solitons, vortices, and polarons, the realization of a microscope for fermions in a lattice; and the production of chemically stable polar molecules.
  • 1997 // Wolfgang Ketterle (co-recipient with Eric Allin Cornell PhD ’90) “for achieving Bose-Einstein condensation of an atomic gas, for creating techniques for studying the Bose condensate, and for measuring the physical properties of the weakly interacting atomic Bose gas.

Aneesur Rahman Prize for Computational Physics

This prize recognizes outstanding achievement in computational physics research. The prize consists of $10,000, an allowance for travel to the meeting of the Society at which the prize is awarded and at which the recipient will deliver the Rahman Lecture, and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. The prize will be presented annually.


J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics

To recognize and encourage outstanding achievement in particle theory. The prize consists of $10,000, an allowance for travel to the meeting of the Society at which the prize is to be awarded, and a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient. It will be presented annually.

  • 1986 // Frank Wilczek (co-recipient with David Gross and H. David Politzer) “for their analyses of nonabelian gauge theories at short distances, and the implications of these insights for the understanding of the strong interaction between quarks.

Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science

The Arthur L. Schawlow Prize in Laser Science is a prize that has been awarded annually by the American Physical Society since 1991. The recipient is chosen for “outstanding contributions to basic research which uses lasers to advance our knowledge of the fundamental physical properties of materials and their interaction with light”. The prize is named after Arthur L. Schawlow, laser pioneer and Nobel laureate, and as of 2007 is valued at $10,000.

  • 2003 // David E. Pritchard “for groundbreaking studies of coherent atom optics and pioneering work on laser cooling and trapping of atomic gases.
  • 1997 // Erich P. Ippen■* (co-recipient with Charles V. Shank) “for their pioneering work in developing femtosecond sources and for their leadership in applying these sources in broad areas of science.

Thomas H. Stix Award for Outstanding Early Career Contributions to Plasma Physics Research

To recognize an individual researcher who has made outstanding contributions (theoretical, experimental, computational, or technical) in plasma physics early in their career. Areas of plasma physics covered by the Award include, but are not limited to, fundamental plasma physics, fusion plasmas, astrophysical or space plasmas, low-temperature plasmas, or high-energy-density plasmas.

The award consists of $3,000, a certificate citing the contributions made by the recipient, and an allowance for registration and travel to the Division of Plasma Physics Annual Meeting. DPP will contribute up to two complimentary banquet tickets for the recipient and a companion.

  • 2015 // Nuno F. G. Loureiro “for pioneering analytical and numerical studies of magnetic reconnection and especially for his contribution to the identification and understanding of the plasmoid-dominated reconnection in high Lundquist-number plasmas.

Leo Szilard Lectureship Award

To recognize outstanding accomplishments by physicists in promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society in such areas as the environment, arms control, and science policy. The lecture format is intended to increase the visibility of those who have promoted the use of physics for the benefit of society. The award consists of $3,000, a certificate citing the contributions of the recipient, plus $2,000 travel expenses for lectures given by the recipient at an APS meeting and at two or more educational institutions or research laboratories in the year following the award. The lectures should be especially aimed at physicists early in their careers.

  • 2005 // Daniel Kleppner (co-recipient with David K. Barton, Roger Falcone, Frederick K. Lamb, Ming K. Lau, Harvey L. Lynch, David Moncton, David Montague, David E. Mosher, William Priedhorsky, Maury Tigner, David R. Vaughan aka the APS Study Group on Boost-Phase Intercept Systems for National Missile Defense) “for the outstanding accomplishments of physicists who promote the use of physics for the public good in such areas as the environment, arms control and science policy.
  • 1984 // Kosta Tsipis^ “for outstanding accomplishments by physicists in promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society.
  • 1981 // Henry Kendall^*

Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics is awarded by the Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to awarding physicists involved in fundamental research.

  • 2012 // Alan Guth* “For the invention of inflationary cosmology, and for his contributions to the theory for the generation of cosmological density fluctuations arising from quantum fluctuations in the early universe, and for his ongoing work on the problem of defining probabilities in eternally inflating spacetimes.

Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

Unlike the annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, the Special Prize is not limited to recent discoveries. As of 2020 the Special Prize, which “can be awarded at any time in recognition of an extraordinary scientific achievement”, has been awarded on 5 occasions (twice in 2013, and once in 2016, 2018 and 2019). The monetary value of the award is also $3 million.

  • 2019 // Daniel Z. Freedmanfor the invention of supergravity, in which quantum variables are part of the description of the geometry of spacetime.”
  • 2016 // Rainer Weiss■* and the LIGO Contributors “for the observation of gravitational waves, opening new horizons in astronomy and physics.”

New Horizons Prize

The New Horizons in Physics Prize of $100,000 is awarded to promising junior researchers who have already produced important work. Each year, up to three New Horizons in Physics Prizes are awarded.

  • 2021
    • Tracy Slatyerfor major contributions to particle astrophysics, from models of dark matter to the discovery of the “Fermi Bubbles”.
    • Netta Engelhardt (co-recipient with Ahmed Almheiri, Henry Maxfield, and Geoff Penington) “for calculating the quantum information content of a black hole and its radiation.”
  • 2020 // Max Metlitski (co-recipient with Xie Chen PhD ’12, Michael Levin PhD ’06, and Lukasz Fidkowski) “for incisive contributions to the understanding of topological states of matter and the relationships between them.”
  • 2019
    • Daniel Harlow (co-recipient with Daniel L. Jafferis, Aron Wall, and Brian Metzger) “for fundamental insights about quantum information, quantum field theory, and gravity.
    • Matthew Evans (co-recipient with Lisa Barsotti and Rana Adhikari) “for research on present and future ground-based detectors of gravitational waves.”
  • 2016 // Liang Fufor outstanding contributions to condensed matter physics, especially involving the use of topology to understand new states of matter.”

The annual prize, created by Dr. Ari Buchalter in 2014, seeks to reward new ideas or discoveries that have the potential to produce a breakthrough advance in our understanding of the origin, structure, and evolution of the universe.

  • 2020 // Mark Vogelsberger (co-recipient with Philip Mocz et. al.) [Third Prize] “First star-forming structures in fuzzy cosmic filaments. arxiv:1910.01653”

Early Career Research Program Awards

Each year, the DoE selects researchers for significant funding “nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.”

  • 2020
  • 2019 // Or Hen “Study of Short-Range Correlations in Nuclei Using Electro-induced Nucleon-knockout Reactions At High Momentum-Transfer”
  • 2015
    • Yen-Jie Lee* “Study of Heavy Flavor Mesons and Flavor‐Tagged Jets with the CMS Detector”
    • Tracy R. Slatyer “Confronting Dark Matter with the Multiwavelength Sky”
  • 2013
    • William Detmold “From Quarks to the Cosmos: Ab Initio Studies in Nuclear Physics”
    • Liang Fu “Predictive Theory of Topological States of Matter”
    • Michael Williams “Gluonic Excitations in Mesons”
  • 2011
    • Nuh Gedik “Optical Manipulation and Detection of Emergent Phenomena in Topological Insulators”
    • Pablo Jarillo-Herrero “Quantum Transport in Topological Insulator Nanoelectronic Devices”
    • Jesse Thaler “Interpreting New Data from the High Energy Frontier”

Enrico Fermi Award

The Enrico Fermi Award is an award honoring scientists of international stature for their lifetime achievement in the development, use, or production of energy. It is administered by the U.S. government’s Department of Energy. The recipient receives $50,000, a certificate signed by the President and the Secretary of Energy, and a gold medal featuring the likeness of Enrico Fermi.

  • 2012 // Mildred Dresselhaus^
  • 1990 // Robley D. Evans+
  • 1988 // Victor F. Weisskopf^
  • 1987 // Luis Alvarez^+
  • 1986 // M. Stanley Livingston^+

Outstanding Junior Investigator Award

The Outstanding Junior Investigator program was started in 1978 by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. A principal goal of this program is to identify exceptionally talented high energy physicists early in their careers and assist and facilitate the development of their research programs.

The Albert Einstein World Award for Science is an annual award given by the World Cultural Council “as a means of recognition and encouragement for scientific and technological research and development”, with special consideration for researches which “have brought true benefit and well being to mankind”. Named for physicist and theoretician Albert Einstein (1879–1955); the award includes a diploma, a commemorative medal, and $10,000.

  • 1993 // Ali Javan^ – Field of Research: Optical Physics

Hannes Alfvén Prize

The prize was established by the EPS Plasma Physics Division in 2000 and is awarded for research achievements which have either already shaped the field of plasma physics or have demonstrated the potential to do so in future. To recognize collaborative research, a group of up to three individual scientists may be nominated. It is awarded each year at the EPS Conference on Plasma Physics.

  • 2013 // Miklos Porkolab “for his seminal contributions to the physics of plasma waves and his key role in the development of fusion energy.”

The Franklin Institute Awards (or Benjamin Franklin Medal) is an American science and engineering award presented by the science museum called Franklin Institute, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The Franklin Institute awards comprises the Benjamin Franklin Medals in seven areas of science and engineering, the Bower Awards and Prize for Achievement in Science, and the Bower Award for Business Leadership.


The Gruber Prize in Cosmology, established in 2000, is one of three international awards worth US$500,000 made by the Gruber Foundation, a non-profit organization based at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Since 2001, the Gruber Prize in Cosmology has been co-sponsored by the International Astronomical Union.

The Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize honors a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical or conceptual discoveries leading to a fundamental advances in the field.

  • 2016 // Rainer Weiss* (co-recipient with Ronald Drever, Kip Thorne and the entire LIGO discovery team)
  • 2004 // Alan Guth* (co-recipient with Andrei Linde)

Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for individuals who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.


Harvey Prize is an annual Israeli award for breakthroughs in science and technology, as well as contributions to peace in the Middle East granted by the Technion in Haifa.

  • 2016 // Rainer Weiss* (co-recipient with Ronald Drever, UK and Kip S. Thorne, US) “for the first direct detection of gravitational waves, confirming a central prediction of Einstein’s General Relativity and opening a new window to the Universe. Also for identifying the source as a merger of two giant black holes, and for the unprecedented technological achievement represented by this laser interferometer experiment.”

IEEE Founders Medal

The IEEE Founders Medal is an award is presented for outstanding contributions in the leadership, planning, and administration of affairs of great value to the electrical and electronics engineering profession. It may be presented to an individual or team up to three in number. This medal was established by the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE) in 1952. The medal continued to be awarded after the merge of the IRE with the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) in 1963 to form the IEEE. Recipients of this medal receive a gold medal, bronze replica, certificate, and cash honorarium.

  • 2004 // Mildred Dresselhaus^

IEEE Medal of Honor

The IEEE Medal of Honor — IEEE’s highest honor, given since 1917. 

  • 2015 // Mildred Dresselhaus^ “for her leadership and contributions across many fields of science and engineering. She is also the first woman to earn the prestigious award.”

I.I. Rabi Award

The Rabi Award is to recognize outstanding contributions related to the fields of atomic and molecular frequency standards, and time transfer and dissemination.

  • 1986 // Jerrold R. Zacharias^ “for his contributions to the development of atomic frequency standards, especially his scientific leadership, pioneering demonstration of the technology, and entrepreneurial initiative which led to the commercialization of atomic standards.”

Michael Faraday/Guthrie Medal and Prize for Experimental Physics

The Michael Faraday Medal and Prize is a gold medal awarded annually by the Institute of Physics in experimental physics. The award is made “for outstanding and sustained contributions to experimental physics.” The medal is accompanied by a prize of £1000 and a certificate. Prior to 2008 was known as the Guthrie Medal and Prize.


Isaac Newton Medal and Prize

The Isaac Newton Medal and Prize is a gold medal awarded annually by the Institute of Physics (IOP) accompanied by a prize of £1,000. The award is given to a physicist, regardless of subject area, background or nationality, for outstanding contributions to physics. The award winner is invited to give a lecture at the Institute. It is named in honour of Sir Isaac Newton.

  • 2009 // Alan H. Guth* “for his invention of the inflationary universe model, his recognition that inflation would solve major problems confronting then-standard cosmology, and his calculation, with others, of the spectrum of density fluctuations that gave rise to structure in the universe.

IOP President’s Medal

Made on the recommendation of IOP’s president, this medal is for both physicists and non-physicists who have contributed to physics in general and the IOP in particular. 


Dirac Medal and Prize in Theoretical Physics

The Dirac Medal of the ICTP is given each year by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in honour of physicist Paul Dirac. The award, announced each year on 8 August (Dirac’s birthday), was first awarded in 1985.

An international committee of distinguished scientists selects the winners from a list of nominated candidates. The Committee invites nominations from scientists working in the fields of theoretical physics or mathematics.

The Dirac Medal of the ICTP is not awarded to Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, or Wolf Prize winners. However, several Dirac Medallists have subsequently won one of these awards.

The medallists receive a prize of US$5,000.

  • 2018 // Xiao-Gang Wen (co-recipient with Subir Sachdev and Dam Thanh Son) “for their independent contributions towards understanding novel phases in strongly interacting many-body systems, introducing original transdisciplinary techniques.”
  • 2005 // Patrick A. Lee* “for his pioneering contributions to our understanding of disordered and strongly interacting many-body systems.”
  • 2002 // Alan Guth* (co-recipient with Andrei Linde and Paul Steinhardt) “for the development of the concept of inflation in cosmology.”
  • 1998 // Roman Jackiw (co-recipient with Stephen L. Adler) “for being leaders in the sophisticated use of quantum field theory to illuminate physical problems.”
  • 1994 // Frank Wilczek “for his contributions to the development of theoretical physics.”
  • 1993 // Daniel Z. Freedman (co-recipient with Sergio Ferrara and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen) “for their discovery of supergravity theory in 1976 and their major contributions in the subsequent developments of the theory.”
  • 1991 // Jeffrey Goldstone “for his fundamental clarification of the phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry violation in relativistic quantum field theory.”

The Kavli Prize was established in 2005 through a joint venture between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, and The Kavli Foundation. The main objective for the Prize is to honor, support and recognize scientists for outstanding scientific work in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience and award three international prizes every second year. The Kavli Prize was awarded the first time in Oslo, 9 September 2008. The Prizes were presented by Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway. Each of the three Kavli Prizes consists of a gold medal, a scroll, and a cash award of US $1,000,000.

Kavli Prize in Astrophysics

  • 2016 // Rainer Weiss* (co-recipient with Ronald W.P. Drever and Kip S. Thorne) “for the direct detection of gravitational waves.”
  • 2014 // Alan Guth* (co-recipient with Andrei D. Linde and Alexei A. Starobinsky) “for pioneering the theory of cosmic inflation.”

Kavli Prize in Nanoscience

  • 2012 // Mildred S. Dresselhaus^ “for her pioneering contributions to the study of phonons, electron-phonon interactions, and thermal transport in nanostructures

The MacArthur Fellows Program, also known as the MacArthur Fellowship and commonly but unofficially known as the “Genius Grant”, is a prize awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation typically to between 20 and 30 individuals, working in any field, who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction” and are citizens or residents of the United States.


NAS Members

Members are elected to the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Membership is a widely accepted mark of excellence in science and is considered one of the highest honors that a scientist can receive. Current NAS membership totals approximately 2,400 members and 500 international members, of which approximately 190 have received Nobel prizes.


NAS Award for Scientific Discovery

The NAS Award for Scientific Discovery, of the National Academy of Sciences, is presented every two years to recognize an accomplishment or discovery in basic research, achieved within the previous five years, that is expected to have a significant impact on one or more of the following fields: astronomy, biochemistry, biophysics, chemistry, materials science, or physics through the selection of recipients of the Award. The Award will rotate among these fields as determined by the NAS Council. To be eligible for an Award, a candidate must be a scientist at a university, college, or other research institution within the United States. Endowed in 2014 in honor of John P. Schaefer through a gift from Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA) and the Frederick Gardner Cottrell Foundation. This award is presented with a medal, a $50,000 prize, and $50,000 to support the recipient’s research.

  • 2021 // Pablo Jarillo-Herrero “for contributing greatly to the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology through his discovery of correlated insulator behavior and unconventional superconductivity in magic-angle graphene superlattices.”

Henry Draper Medal

The Henry Draper Medal is awarded every 4 years by the United States National Academy of Sciences “for investigations in astronomical physics”. Named after Henry Draper, the medal is awarded with a gift of USD $15,000. The medal was established under the Draper Fund by his widow, Anna Draper, in honor of her husband, and was first awarded in 1886 to Samuel Pierpont Langley “for numerous investigations of a high order of merit in solar physics, and especially in the domain of radiant energy”.

  • 1888 // Edward C. Pickering^ “for his work in stellar photometry, stellar photography, and stellar spectrum photography.”

NAS Public Welfare Medal

The NAS Public Welfare Medal is the Academy’s most prestigious award and is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good.

  • 1991 // Victor F. Weisskopf^ “for a half-century of unflagging effort to humanize the goals of science, acquaint the world with the beneficial potential of nuclear technologies, and to safeguard it from the devastation of nuclear war.”
  • 1947 // Karl T. Compton^ “for his notable contributions of an original character to the science of physics, his long and valuable career in the field of education and of university administration, and in recognition of his eminent service in the wartime research effort of the nation, and in the reinforcing of collaboration and understanding between civilian scientists and military men.”

The National Medal of Science is an honor bestowed by the President of the United States to a scientist or engineer for important contributions made to the advancement of knowledge in the behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics or physics. It is the highest honor the U.S. government bestows on scholars working in these fields.

  • 2006 // Daniel Kleppner “for his pioneering scientific studies of the interaction of atoms and light including Rydberg atoms, cavity quantum electrodynamics, quantum chaos; for developing techniques that opened the way to Bose Einstein Condensation in a gas; and for lucid explanations of physics to nonspecialists and exemplary service to the scientific community.” Awarded by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony on July 27, 2007.
  • 1991 // Steven Weinberg+ “for his contributions to the discovery of the structure of the fundamental forces of nature; the development of the standard model, and the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces.” Presented by President Bush at a White House Rose Garden Ceremony on September 16, 1991.
  • 1990 // Mildred Dresselhaus^ “for her studies of the electronic properties of metals and semimetals, and for her service to the Nation in establishing a prominent place for women in physics and engineering.” Presented by President Bush at a White House East Room Ceremony on November 13, 1990.
  • 1986 // Herman Feshbach^ “for his distinguished contributions to science as a nationally acclaimed leader in physics education by virtue of his extraordinary interest in teaching and his total commitment to scientific excellence.” Presented by President Reagan at a White House Ceremony on March 12, 1986.
  • 1983 // Bruno B. Rossi^ “for fundamental contributions to physics and astronomy through his investigations into the nature and origin of cosmic rays and his initiatives that led to the direct detection of the solar wind and to the discovery of extrasolar x-ray sources.” Presented by President Reagan at a White House Ceremony on February 27, 1985.
  • 1982 // Charles H. Townes^+ “for fundamental contributions to the understanding of matter through its interaction with electromagnetic radiations and the application of this knowledge to the service of mankind, most notably in the invention of the maser and laser.” Presented by President Reagan at a White House Ceremony on May 24, 1983.
  • 1979 // Victor F. Weisskopf^ “for important contributions to our understanding of nuclear matter and nuclear reactions, and early fundamental contributions to our understanding of elementary particles.” Presented by President Carter at a White House Ceremony on January 14, 1980.
  • 1970 // John C. Slater^ “for wide-ranging contributions to the basic theory of atoms, molecules, and matter in the solid form.” Presented by President Nixon at a White House Ceremony on May 21, 1971.

Vannevar Bush Award

The National Science Board established the Vannevar Bush Award (/væˈniːvər/ van-NEE-vər) in 1980 to honor Vannevar Bush’s unique contributions to public service. The annual award recognizes an individual who, through public service activities in science and technology, has made an outstanding “contribution toward the welfare of mankind and the Nation.” The recipient of the award receives a bronze medal struck in the memory of Dr. Bush.


Comstock Prize in Physics

The Comstock Prize in Physics is awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences “for recent innovative discovery or investigation in electricity, magnetism, or radiant energy, broadly interpreted.”

Honorees must be residents of North America. Named after Cyrus B. Comstock, it has been awarded about every five years since 1913.

  • 1958 // Charles H. Townes^
  • 1953 // William Shockley^ “for his pioneering investigations and exposition of electric and magnetic properties of solid materials; in particular for his researches in the conduction of electricity by electrons and holes in semiconductors.”

NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award

CAREER: The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a Foundation-wide activity that offers the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

The Nobel Prize in Physics is a yearly award given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences for those who have made the most outstanding contributions for mankind in the field of physics. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others being the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

The first Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to physicist Wilhelm Röntgen in recognition of the extraordinary services he rendered by the discovery of X-rays. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation and is widely regarded as the most prestigious award that a scientist can receive in physics.

  • 2017 // Rainer Weiss ’55 PhD ’62, Professor of Physics, Emeritus (2001–present) (co-recipient with Barry C. Barish and Kip S. Thorne) “for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves.”
  • 2004 // Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics (co-recipient with David J. Gross and H. David Politzer “for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction.”
  • 2001 // Wolfgang Ketterle, John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics (co-recipient with Eric A. Cornell PhD ’90, and Carl E. Wieman ’73) “for the achievement of Bose-Einstein condensation in dilute gases of alkali atoms, and for early fundamental studies of the properties of the condensates.”
  • 1994 // Clifford G. Shull, former Professor of Physics Emeritus (1986–2001) (co-recipient with Bertram N. Brockhouse) “for the development of the neutron diffraction technique.”
  • 1990 // Jerome I. Friedman, Professor of Physics Emeritus and former Physics Department Head (1983-1988), and Henry W. Kendall, former Julius A. Stratton Professor of Physics (co-recipient with Richard E. Taylor) “for their pioneering investigations concerning deep inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and bound neutrons, which have been of essential importance for the development of the quark model in particle physics.”
  • 1979 // Steven Weinberg, former Professor of Physics (1969-1973), (co-recipient with Sheldon Lee Glashow and Abdus Salam) “for their contributions to the theory of the unified weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, including, inter alia, the prediction of the weak neutral current.”
  • 1976 // Samuel Chao Chung Ting, Thomas Dudley Cabot Institute Professor of Physics (co-recipient with Burton Richter ’52 PhD ’56) “for their pioneering work in the discovery of a heavy elementary particle of a new kind.”
  • 1964 – Charles Hard Townes, former Provost and Professor of Physics (1961–1966), (co-recipient with Nicolay Gennadiyevich Basov and Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov) “for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle.”

Adolph Lomb Medal

The Adolph Lomb Medal, awarded by the Optical Society is a prize for young scientists (age 35 or younger) for their contributions to optics. It is named after Adolph Lomb, treasurer of the Optical Society of America from its founding until his death in 1942.

  • 2005 // Marin Soljačić* “for the discovery of novel soliton phenomena, and for seminal and innovative work in nonlinear and time dependent photonic crystals.”

William F. Meggers Award in Spectroscopy

The William F. Meggers Award has been awarded annually since 1970 by the Optical Society (originally called the Optical Society of America) for outstanding contributions to spectroscopy

  • 2008 // Michael S. Feld^* “for major contributions to the foundations of laser spectroscopy, and for pioneering developments in the application of spectroscopy to biomedicine.
  • 1991 // Daniel Kleppnerfor his outstanding contributions to spectroscopy, including development of the hydrogen maser, spectroscopy of Rydberg states, and analysis of the interaction of atoms with electromagnetic fields.”
  • 1970 // George R. Harrison^

Charles Hard Townes Award for Quantum Electronics

The Charles Hard Townes Award of The Optical Society is a prize for Quantum Electronics — that is to say, the physics of lasers. Awarded annually since 1981, it is named after the Nobel Prize-winning laser pioneer and former MIT professor, Charles H. Townes.

Former winners include Nobel Prize laureates John L. Hall, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Serge Haroche, Arthur Ashkin, and Gérard Mourou.

  • 2004 // Erich P. Ippen■* “for his many outstanding, pioneering and sustained contributions to ultrafast science and technology, and fundamental nonlinear optics.

The Packard Foundation Fellowships are one of the most prestigious and well-funded non-governmental awards for early-career scientists.

The Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) is the highest honor bestowed by the United States government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers. The White House, following recommendations from participating agencies, confers the awards annually. To be eligible for a Presidential Award, an individual must be a US citizen, national or permanent resident. Some of the winning scientists and engineers receive up to a five-year research grant.

Department of Defense

Lise Meitner Distinguished Lecture and Medal

Lise Meitner Distinguished Lecture and Medal is a colloquium-style distinguished lecture that takes place at AlbaNova University Center in Stockholm on annual basis. The lecture commemorates Lise Meitner who spent a substantial part of her career in Stockholm. AlbaNova University Center hosts physics departments of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Nordita.

The Lise Meitner Distinguished Lecture is sponsored by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences through its Nobel Committee for Physics.

  • 2020 // Pablo Jarillo-Herrero “for his groundbreaking work on “twistronics,” a technique that adjusts the electronic properties of graphene by rotating adjacent layers of the material.”
  • 2015 // Frank Wilczek (Inaugural winner)

The Shaw Prize is an annual award first presented by the Shaw Prize Foundation in 2004. Established in 2002 in Hong Kong, it honours “individuals who are currently active in their respective fields and who have recently achieved distinguished and significant advances, who have made outstanding contributions in academic and scientific research or applications, or who in other domains have achieved excellence. The award is dedicated to furthering societal progress, enhancing quality of life, and enriching humanity’s spiritual civilization.”

The prize has been described as the “Nobel of the East”.

  • 2016 // Rainer Weiss* (co-recipient with Ronald W.P. Drever and Kip S. Thorne) “for conceiving and designing the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), whose recent direct detection of gravitational waves opens a new window in astronomy, with the first remarkable discovery being the merger of a pair of stellar mass black holes.”

Simons Fellows in Theoretical Physics

The Simons Fellows in Theoretical Physics program helps to make sabbatical research leaves more productive by extending them from a single term to a full academic year.


Simons Investigator

Simons Investigators are outstanding theoretical scientists who receive a stable base of research support from the foundation, enabling them to undertake the long-term study of fundamental questions.

The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.

These two-year, $75,000 fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the president of the United States to recognize people who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are the highest civilian awards of the United States.

  • 2014 // Mildred S. Dresselhaus^
  • 1963 // Edwin H. Land^+

Since its inception in 2011, the annual Kenneth G. Wilson Award for Excellence in Lattice Field Theory has recognized physicists who have made recent, outstanding contributions to lattice field theory.

The award is presented each year at the Lattice International Conference, recognizing research that made an important contribution to lattice field theory within three years prior to the conference.

  • 2020 // Phiala Shanahan “for excellence in the study of hadrons and nuclei in lattice QCD and for pioneering the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques to lattice field theory.”

The Wolf Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Wolf Foundation in Israel. It is one of the six Wolf Prizes established by the Foundation and awarded since 1978; the others are in Agriculture, Chemistry, Mathematics, Medicine and Arts.

The Wolf Prizes in physics and chemistry are often considered the second most prestigious awards in those fields, after the Nobel Prize. The prize in physics has gained a reputation for identifying future winners of the Nobel Prize – from the 26 prizes awarded between 1978 and 2010, fourteen winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, five of those in the following year.

  • 2020 // Pablo Jarillo-Herrero (co-recipient with Rafi Bistritzer and Allan H. MacDonald) “for pioneering theoretical and experimental work on twisted bilayer graphene.”
  • 2005 // Daniel Kleppner “for groundbreaking work in atomic physics of hydrogenic systems, including research on the hydrogen maser, Rydberg atoms and Bose–Einstein condensation.”
  • 1987 // Bruno B. Rossi^ (co-recipient with Riccardo Giacconi) “for the discovery of extra-solar X-ray sources and the elucidation of their physical processes.”
  • 1981 // Victor F. Weisskopf^ (co-recipient with Freeman J. Dyson and Gerald ‘t Hooft) “for their outstanding contributions to theoretical physics, especially in the development and application of the quantum theory of fields.”

Institute Awards

The Everett Moore Baker Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching is presented to faculty members, in recognition of exceptional interest and ability in the instruction of undergraduates. This is the only teaching award in which the nomination and selection of the recipients is done entirely by the students. The award is given in memory of Everett Moore Baker, Dean of Students from 1947-1950.

If you have any questions about the Everett Moore Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching please contact us via email.

The Professor Amar G. Bose Research Grant Program, named for the late Amar G. Bose ’51, SM ’52, ScD ’56, a longtime MIT faculty member and the founder of the Bose Corporation, supports audacious research projects dreamed up by MIT faculty members who take “it can’t be done” as an invitation. We enable and empower the insatiable curiosity that drives innovation.


Each year the Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award Selection Committee chooses one individual from among the junior members of the MIT faculty to be awarded the Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize exceptional distinction in teaching, in research, and in service. The Selection Committee consists of four faculty members elected by vote of the Faculty from a slate prepared by the Faculty Nominations Committee, and a chair selected from the previous year’s committee by the Chair of the Faculty.

Graduate Student Council Teaching Awards

The Graduate Student Council Teaching Awards are given each year to one professor or teaching assistant from each school, for excellence in teaching a graduate level course.

To nominate, visit the Graduate Student Council website. Please direct any questions to gsc-awards@mit.edu.

Frank E. Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising

The Frank E. Perkins Award for Excellence in Graduate Advising is given each year to a professor from each school who has served as an excellent advisor and mentor for graduate students. The award is named in honor of Frank E. Perkins, Dean of the Graduate School from 1983-95.

To nominate, visit the Graduate Student Council website. Please direct any questions to gsc-awards@mit.edu.

The title of Institute Professor is the highest honor awarded by the faculty and administration at MIT.

The MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program honors MIT’s best teachers. Since 1992, more than 100 Fellows have been selected for their outstanding contributions to undergraduate education, and for their exceptional teaching, mentoring, and educational innovation.

Although a MacVicar Fellow’s active status ends after ten years, he or she remains a Fellow and continues to participate in the Program and its events.

Presented to a faculty member who has served as an excellent advisor and mentor for undergraduates and who has had a significant impact on their personal lives and academic success. The Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons (October 2006) highlighted the importance of quality advising and mentoring of students and the potential impact these relationships have on student success.

If you have any questions about the Earll M. Murman Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising please contact us via email.

SOS Undergraduate Teaching Prize

The School of Science Teaching Prize for Undergraduate Education recognizes outstanding teaching not only in undergraduate subjects with large enrollments (such as those that satisfy the General Institute Requirements in science), but also in upper-level science subjects in which enrollments are smaller.


SOS Graduate Teaching Prize

The School of Science Teaching Prize for Graduate Education often honors teaching of mainstream subjects in which fundamental principles of the relevant fields are presented. Such courses typically provide the basis for advanced education and research and prepare students for professional careers.

The Teaching with Digital Technology Awards are student-nominated awards for faculty & instructors who have effectively used digital technology to improve teaching and learning at MIT. The awards recognize faculty for their teaching innovations and give the MIT community the opportunity to learn from their practices.

  • 2019 // John W. Belcherfor his physics courses on electricity and magnetism.”
  • 2017 // Tracy Slatyerfor 8.033, Relativity, Fall 15; 8.32, Quantum Field Theory, SP ’17.”
  • 2016 // Peter Dourmashkin* “for 8.01 & 8.02.”

The UROP Outstanding Mentor – Faculty is an award that has been given annually since the 2003-04 academic year. The award recognizes the most outstanding faculty mentor based on the nominations received from undergraduates who have participated in UROP over the past year. The nomination process is run through the UROP office.