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World-class physicist to join KU as foundation professor

Mon, 06/22/2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas has made a big addition to its powerful team of faculty who focus on the very, very small.

Christophe Royon, research director at CEA-Saclay in France and a world leader in forward and diffractive physics, will join KU as a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in January 2016. He is one of six Foundation Professors announced this year, one of 12 positions overall.

“Professor Royon’s international reputation and expertise in particle and nuclear physics will enhance KU’s already prominent reputation in this arena,” said Jeffrey S. Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor. “His scholarly endeavors have implications for numerous fields beyond physics, and I anticipate he will lead several interdisciplinary research ventures. As a Foundation Professor, Royon will help further KU’s strategic initiatives, such as promoting well-being and finding cures.”

Royon’s research helps advance many disciplines by providing a better understanding of subatomic particles and their role in matter throughout the universe. Harnessing the capabilities of colliders — atom-smashing devices — such as CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, or Fermilab near Chicago, Royon excels in developing techniques that assist in detection of high-speed particles traveling in myriad directions after colliding. Identifying the characteristics of these particles — such as their path, momentum, and energy — and applying that knowledge aids in the creation of a variety of instruments, and it furthers the world’s understanding of events throughout the universe.

He is a prolific researcher and author who has contributed to more than 925 publications, including 193 papers in Physical Review Letters and two in the journal Nature. International researchers have cited these publications more than 60,000 times.  

“Royon's research group has played an important role in understanding the structure of neutrons and protons that are responsible for most of the known mass in the universe,” said Hume Feldman, professor and chair of the department. “These studies were fundamental for the Higgs search and discovery at the LHC and for the study of quark gluon plasma at RHIC. He is also one of the world leaders on the Forward Higgs searches. He is developing fast-timing detectors that will help drive future nuclear physics and Higgs searches. These detectors will also find use in defense applications, such as sensors for drone aircraft, and in medical-imaging applications.”

Internationally known for building collaborations among physics theorists and experimentalists, Royon has convened and served as spokesman of various international projects, including the ATLAS Forward Physics project that involved 150 researchers, representing 28 agencies and 11 countries. Since 1994 he has been chairman of the international committee of the annual series of conferences known as “Low x” on quantum chromodynamics and diffraction.

“Professor Royon is an intellectual powerhouse and a great addition to the university, as well as the department,” said Don Steeples, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “His scholarly record and leadership reputation will raise the profile of this institution and draw even more top researchers and students to KU for exciting new projects.”

Royon has held a permanent position at CEA-Saclay since 1994. As part of the Science Without Borders program, he has been a science adviser for Brazil. He also organized summer school on various physics disciplines in 2014 and 2007. Since 2012, Royon has been co-convener of the LHC Forward Physics Working Group, coordinating forward physics among all LHC experiments. He has been a member of the international organizing committee of the “Diffraction” workshops since 2002, and he has co-chaired the international organizing committee of the “Small x” conferences since 2000.

He earned the level of Aggregation of Physics and Master in Quantum Physics at Ecole Normale Superieure in 1990 and 1991, respectively. He earned a doctorate in physics from the University in Orsay in 1994.

KU’s Foundation Distinguished Professor initiative is a unique partnership between the university and the state of Kansas to attract 12 eminent scholars to support one or more of the university’s four strategic initiative themes. Royon is the ninth Foundation Professor named to date.



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