Adam Riess, a Johns Hopkins astronomy and physics professor, got a 5:30 a.m. call giving him the news that he had just won the Nobel Prize in Physics. Riess, 41, said several Swedish men were on the line, at which point he “knew it wasn’t Ikea” and his “jaw dropped.” He couldn’t believe he had won.
According to the Associated Press, Riess was one on a team of three scientists awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for discovering that the universe is expanding at a faster and faster rate. The other members of the team are fellow American Saul Perlmutter and U.S.-Australian citizen Brian Schmidt. Perlmutter heads the Supernova Cosmology Project at the University of California, Berkeley. Schmidt is the head of the High-z Supernova Search Team at the Australian National University in Weston Creek, Australia
Riess, who has an undergraduate degree in physics from MIT and a doctorate in astrophysics from Harvard, said he spends the last two classes of his introductory astronomy course at Hopkins talking about the discovery. He tells students that they are fortunate to have such an “exciting mystery” to help solve.
In 2008, Riess won a $1 million John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation “Fellowship Grant,” also known as a “genius grant.” That same year, he was among the 212 fellows elected to the 228th class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2007, he shared The Peter Gruber Foundation’s Cosmology Prize – a gold medal and $500,000 — and in 2006, he won the $1 million Shaw Prize, considered by some to be “the Nobel of the East.” In 2009, Riess was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Riess, who lives in the Towson neighborhood of Stoneleigh, is the 35th person associated with Johns Hopkins University to win the Nobel Prize.