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Physicist receives prestigious Packard Fellowship

Fellowship honors the nation’s most innovative, early-career scientists

Northwestern University physicist Timothy Kovachy has received a 2020 Packard Fellowship for Science and Engineering from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The prestigious fellowship includes an unrestricted grant of $875,000 over five years to pursue innovative and experimental research.

kovachy Packard
Timothy Kovachy

Today, the foundation named Kovachy and 19 others as the nation’s most innovative, early-career scientists and engineers.

“Now more than ever, we need science,” said Frances Arnold, chair of the Packard Fellowships advisory panel, 2018 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and 1989 Packard Fellow. “In a year when we are confronted by the devastating impacts of a global pandemic, racial injustice and climate change, these 20 scientists and engineers offer us a ray of hope for the future. Through their research, creativity, and mentorship to their students and labs, these young leaders will help equip us all to better understand and address the problems we face.”

Kovachy’s group is developing atom interferometers, in which each atom is placed in a quantum superposition of two macroscopically separated locations at the same time. These instruments offer the potential to probe quantum mechanics in an unexplored regime, search for dark matter and detect gravitational waves in a new frequency range. 

“The Packard Fellowship will provide me with the funding to pursue some of my most ambitious ideas,” said Kovachy, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “I appreciate that the Packard Foundation encourages high-risk, high-reward research that aims to make dramatic advances beyond the current state-of-the-art.”

The Packard Fellowships for Science and Engineering are among the nation’s largest nongovernmental fellowships, designed to allow maximum flexibility in how the funding is used. 

David Packard, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company, inspired the program by recognizing that the success of his company was derived from the research and development conducted in university laboratories.