The Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to two international professors and their research team, including a Purdue University Calumet physics professor.
The 2013 Nobel Prize in physics was announced in Stockholm, Sweden, just before 6 a.m. Tuesday and awarded to Peter Higgs of the University of Edenburgh and Francois Englert of the Universite Libre de Bruxelles for their discovery of the Higgs boson subatomic particle, dubbed "the God particle."
Neeti Parashar, a physics professor at Purdue Calumet in Hammond, served on the winning team.
The Nobel Prize committee Tuesday recognized the team of 6,000 international researchers for their role in discovering the subatomic particle, that is believed to have existed since the beginning of the universe.
The discovery was announced July 4, 2012.
Parashar, who serves as head of Purdue Calumet's physics department, said she stayed up all night awaiting the news, and "was so excited, like a child," when she heard she was part of the winning team.
"This is overwhelming. I have been working on this 10 years. U.S. scientists also worked to confirm this theory."
Parashar, of Munster, said winning this honor was especially nice to hear Tuesday, which is her father's 70th birthday. She said her father, Dayanand Parashar, is a physicist with the University of Delhi. She said four members of her family also are physicists.
Parashar could not stop grinning as she hugged members of the faculty and students who came to congratulate her.
"Being part of a discovery leading to a Nobel Prize is absolutely exhilarating," she said. "While I have been working on the experiment that co-jointly discovered the Higgs boson with another experiment since 2004, I never imagined that I would be part of something at this elite level of scientific endeavor.
"In my opinion, this discovery is the crowning achievement of the century."
Parashar has been a faculty member at Purdue's Hammond campus since 2005. Supported by the National Science Foundation, Parashar conducted most of her research on the Higgs boson at Fermilab in partnership with the National Science Foundation. She also involved several of her students in the research.
The particle has been called the “God particle” because of its assumed key role in the Standard Model of particle physics, which shapes understanding about the composition and interaction of all matter in the natural universe.
Parashar heads PUC’s high energy physics program and, since 2004, has conducted research with colleagues on the Compact Muon Solenoid at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, a multinational research center in Switzerland.
Purdue Calumet Chancellor Thomas Keon, who couldn't be there, congratulated Parashar through Skype.
"It's because of you, the other researchers and your students that we found out that theory was observable. Without that, this Nobel prize couldn't have been awarded. All the campus is excited about what you have done and your research," he said.
While Parashar celebrated the historic day, she said the work continues. "We found the Higgs boson in one sector. We believe it is in other sectors as well. There is still plenty of work ahead," she said.