Zachary Weiner ’16 of Highland Park, Illinois, is one of six finalists for the LeRoy Apker Award, a national award recognizing outstanding achievements in physics by undergraduate students.
The Kenyon physics department nominated Weiner for his honors thesis, “Numerical Simulations of Non-Abelian Gauge Pre-Heating,” in which he developed a new method for modeling particle production from the Big Bang, the leading explanation for the origin of the universe.
Weiner will present his research Aug. 22 in Washington, D.C., to the Apker Award Selection Committee in an effort to be chosen as one of two winners. The award is presented by the American Physical Society, the world’s largest organization of physicists.
“The pool of applicants includes every single graduating undergraduate physics major in the country who did research, so I feel really lucky and excited to have this opportunity to go to Washington and let people know that Kenyon is a truly special place,” Weiner said.
No matter the outcome, “being a finalist is in and of itself a huge honor,” said Weiner’s advisor, Associate Professor of Physics John T. Giblin Jr.
A double major in math and physics, Weiner was a member of Giblin’s Cosmology and Computing group. He will continue his research while pursuing a doctorate in physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“‘Driven’ is the right word to describe Zach,” Giblin said. “He put his mind to this huge goal and got it done. He had a remarkable work ethic.”
Weiner, a varsity swimmer at Kenyon, said the discipline and dedication required for his athletic life influenced his approach to academics. “Swimming epitomizes grinding out periods of hard work without gratification, striving toward a goal and pushing to be the best you can be. I think all that carried over into the long hours I spend on my research project,” he said.
Weiner eventually would like to teach physics “at a place like Kenyon, to provide students with the experiences and opportunities I had,” he said.
As an Apker finalist, Weiner receives a $1,000 honorarium. Another $1,000 goes to the Kenyon physics department to support student research. Should he win the award, Weiner and the department each will receive $5,000.
“I think this achievement says a lot about our physics department, especially about involving students in research,” Giblin said.