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Anna Grassellino is awarded New Horizons in Physics Prize

Physicist’s work has applications ranging from accelerator physics to quantum devices

Anna Grassellino, a quantum physicist at Fermi National Laboratory and Northwestern University, is the recipient of the 2023 New Horizons in Physics Prize for her work and impact in particle accelerator technology and quantum information science. 

The Breakthrough Prize Foundation bestows the annual honor to exceptional early career scientists who already have made a substantial impact on their fields. Grassellino is receiving one of this year’s three $100,000 physics prizes. She is being recognized for “the discovery of major performance enhancements to niobium superconducting radio-frequency cavities, with applications ranging from accelerator physics to quantum devices.”

Anna Grassellino
Anna Grassellino

Grassellino, a senior scientist at Fermilab, is an adjunct professor of physics and astronomy in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. She is director of the Fermilab-based Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center (SQMS), a national research center of which Northwestern is a major partner. 

Grassellino’s specialty of superconducting radio-frequency technology, known as SRF, is the heart of modern particle accelerators. She has received awards for the discovery of nitrogen doping, a technique that dramatically increases the efficiency of SRF cavities. These cavities are an essential component of high-energy particle accelerators, which are only feasible thanks to the SRF cavities’ exceptionally narrow and sensitive resonant response. 

“I am truly honored and extremely thankful to the Department of Energy Office of Science, for giving me the opportunity to work at the frontiers of science,” Grassellino said. “I’m forever thankful to my Fermilab, Northwestern and other SRF colleagues with whom we have made and will continue to make revolutionary discoveries.”

Grassellino also has a leadership role in an earlier Northwestern-Fermilab collaboration that helped pave the way for the $115 million SQMS Center: the Center for Applied Physics and Superconducting Technologies (CAPST). She is a co-director of the center along with Jens Koch, professor of physics and astronomy at Northwestern. (Koch is deputy director of SQMS.) CAPST is one of 35 current University-wide Research Institutes and Centers (URICs) that harness talent from across many disciplines and schools.

“Anna’s contributions to CAPST and leadership of SQMS are keys to the future success of physics and astronomy at Northwestern,” said Michael Schmitt, professor of physics and astronomy and chair of the department. “We are very happy to have her as a colleague and congratulate her on receiving this impressive prize.”