President Barack Obama today named UCLA physicist Claudio Pellegrini as a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, a Presidential Award and one of the government’s oldest and most prestigious awards for scientific achievement.
Pellegrini — a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics and Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, as well as a visiting scientist and consulting professor in photon science at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory — shares the award with Charles Shank, laboratory director emeritus at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a senior fellow with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The award, which carries an honorarium of $50,000 that is shared equally and a medal, is administered on behalf of the White House by the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Claudio Pellegrini and Chuck Shank have advanced scientific research at the Department of Energy and the national laboratories throughout their distinguished careers, which has significantly contributed to sustained leadership in research and development in the United States,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “I congratulate them for their achievements and hope that the example they set will inspire future generations of scientists and engineers.”
“This is a great honor,” Pellegrini said. “Most of the work being recognized has been made here at UCLA. I am deeply grateful for the important support I received over many years from the university, my colleagues, students and post docs. This award is a recognition for everything they have done to help me."
The Fermi Award honors the memory of Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi, a pioneer in the field of nuclear and particle physics who was the first scientist to achieve a nuclear chain reaction. Presented to outstanding scientists since 1956, the award recognizes distinguished achievement, leadership and service related to basic and applied research, science and technology supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and its programs.
Pellegrini received the award “for pioneering research advancing understanding of relativistic electron beams and free-electron lasers, and for transformative discoveries profoundly impacting the successful development of the first hard x-ray free-electron laser, heralding a new era for science.”
The Department of Energy praised his critical role in establishing the world’s first hard X-ray free electron laser — which has enabled new areas of ultrafast x-ray physics, atomic physics, plasma physics, chemistry, biology and and materials science, and has transformed the nature of X-ray facilities available worldwide.
Shank was honored “for the seminal development of ultrafast lasers and their application in many areas of scientific research, for visionary leadership of national scientific and engineering research communities, and for exemplary service supporting the National Laboratory complex.”