Alumnus Receives National Distinction in Physics

Friday, May 26, 2017
Don Lincoln

Award-Winning Physicist: Don Lincoln, a 1986 physics and mathematics alumnus, is the recipient of the American Institute of Physics’ 2017 Andrew Germant Award. He is a senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

After spending years shining a light on science, the American Institute of Physics has turned the spotlight on alumnus Don Lincoln for his significant contributions in physics.

Lincoln, a senior scientist in the area of particle physics at Chicago’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, is recipient of the 2017 Andrew Gemant Award, an annual AIP prize honoring cultural, artistic or humanistic achievements in physics.

The Gemant Award committee selected Lincoln for his more than 20 years of communicating particle and cosmological physics through public lectures, book, videos and articles, especially those aimed at physics educators. Catherine O’Riordan, AIP’s chief operating officer, remarks that Lincoln has made the world of subatomic particles accessible to the public.

The 1986 physics and mathematics graduate hosts dozens of particle physics videos for Fermilab’s YouTube channel, the most popular of which has almost three million views. He wrote the weekly Fermilab Today columns for more than a decade, and has written articles for worldwide magazines that include Scientific American and The Physics Teacher, and several online publications—among them the Huffington Post, CNN and NOVA program website blog.

Lincoln also has authored three books for the public about particle physics and the universe, developed a Theory of Everything course for the Great Courses series, and presented hundreds of lectures, including a popular TED talk.

For his part, Lincoln believes he is paying forward the lessons of biochemistry professor/science author Isaac Asimov and an astrophysicist/science communicator who inspired his interest in science during the late 1970s. Neither of Lincoln’s parents had academic backgrounds or a particular interest in science.

“I figure there’s a kid somewhere who might be in a similar situation as I was, and I’m hoping that by communicating my excitement of science, I might open their eyes to a life that they otherwise could never have imagined,” Lincoln says. “There is a long history of scientists being hesitant to do science communication because they think their colleagues won’t take them seriously as a real scientist–and that I think is wrong-minded.”

Lincoln’s distinguished research has included contributions to the discovery of the Higgs boson, and has been featured in more than 1,000 scientific publications.

"I'm having a blast doing what I'm doing," he says. "There are so many scientifically based topics that will affect our society: stem cells, vaccinations, climate change and certainly the enormous advances in genetics. I strongly believe that scientists need to be in the forefront to explain what is possible and impossible.”

Lincoln will be presented with the Gemant Award in conjunction with an invited public lecture that will be scheduled later this year. The award includes a $5,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant to further the public communication of physics at an institution of Lincoln’s choice.

AIP is a federation of scientific societies in the physical sciences, representing scientists, engineers, educators, and students.