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Fermilab director Nigel Lockyer to receive honorary NIU doctorate

May 1, 2015
Nigel Lockyer

Nigel Lockyer

NIU will award an honorary doctoral degree Friday, May 8, to acclaimed physicist Nigel Lockyer, director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Lockyer will earn his honorary doctorate during the NIU Graduate School commencement ceremony scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the NIU Convocation Center.

“Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics research,” said NIU President Doug Baker, who serves as chair of the board of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition. “Dr. Lockyer has been a very strong partner with NIU as we work together to build Illinois’ capacity for educating and training the next generation of accelerator physicists.”

Earlier this spring, Lockyer was on campus to participate in a roundtable discussion with President Baker, NIU students and faculty and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Durbin has introduced legislation to provide greater federal investment in scientific research and create a mandatory fund to provide steady, predictable funding for breakthrough research at America’s top research agencies.

For more than a quarter century, NIU physicists and students have conducted cutting-edge research at the Fermilab and participated in many of its most high profile experiments.

“Over the years, NIU and Fermilab have closely collaborated on fundamental particle physics and accelerator and technology development,” said physicist Gerald Blazey, acting associate vice president for research and innovation at NIU and a former co-spokesperson for Fermilab’s international DZero collaboration.

“Dr. Lockyer has continued the tradition, and we look forward to working with him to further strengthen university and laboratory ties,” Blazey said.

An experimental particle physicist, Lockyer began his tenure as director of Fermilab in September 2013.

Fermilab logoPrior to that he served as director of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. He was also a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia.

Under his leadership, TRIUMF formulated a vision for ascending the world stage in nuclear physics using rare-isotope beams to address some of the most fundamental questions in science. Lockyer expanded the laboratory’s operations by 25 percent, earning a reputation as a national leader and team-builder. He also developed a strong working partnership among Canada’s major science laboratories and built international collaborations.

Prior to leading TRIUMF, Lockyer was a professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania.

His research focused on high-energy particle experiments at the energy frontier, with an interest in testing fundamental symmetries and studying the heaviest quarks. While at Pennsylvania, Lockyer developed his interest in the applications of physics to real-world problems; he worked with the Penn Medical School on proton therapy for cancer and detectors for medical physics.

He has served at Fermilab in a variety of capacities dating back more than 25 years.

Fermi National Accelerator Lab

Fermi National Accelerator Lab

Lockyer performed research for many years at the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) experiment at the laboratory’s Tevatron particle accelerator, serving as the experiment’s co-spokesperson from 2002 through 2004. CDF and DZero achieved world acclaim for discovering and studying the top quark, one of the fundamental building blocks of nature. He was a Fermilab guest scientist from 2001 to 2005 and a visiting scientist during the summers of 1987 and 1988.

Born in Scotland and raised in Canada, Lockyer received his graduate education in the United States. He earned his B.S. in physics from York University in Toronto and his Ph.D. in physics from The Ohio State University.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and a recipient of the society’s 2006 Panofsky Prize for his leading research on the bottom quark.

In receiving an honorary degree from NIU, Lockyer joins a cast of other noteworthy individuals.

The list includes former U.S. Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert; Argonne National Laboratory Director Eric D. Isaacs and former Argonne directors Robert Rosner and Hermann Grunder; author and physician Abraham Verghese; historian Arthur Schlesinger; U.S. Sen. Paul Simon; poet Gwendolyn Brooks; astronomer Carl Sagan; U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth; Leland A. Strom, former chairman of the board and CEO of the Farm Credit Administration; Layli Miller-Muro, founder and executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center; Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; John Sall, executive vice president of the SAS Institute; and Frances Whitehead, a civic practice artist and professor of sculpture.