Afternoon lecture honors Bruce Winstein

A plaque honoring Bruce Winstein for his accomplishments will be hung following the memorial lecture at the annual Users’ Meeting.

A lecture this afternoon will honor the life and contributions of Bruce Winstein, an award-winning experimental particle physicist who made a great impact on the field of particle physics. Winstein died earlier this year. Ed Blucher, University of Chicago’s chairman of the Department of Physics, will give the memorial lecture at 4:55 p.m. in Ramsey Auditorium as part of Fermilab’s annual Users’ Meeting. A plaque honoring Winstein for his accomplishments will be hung following the lecture.

“Bruce changed the field of fixed target experiments,” said Bob Bernstein, who worked with Winstein for many years. “You could wander down the hall and find someone who was affected by Bruce in some way.”

Winstein served as Bernstein’s thesis advisor, although Bernstein said he got more from Winstein than guidance.

“One of the things that I got from Bruce was an externalized conscience,” Bernstein said. “Whenever I do a piece of work, I feel him on my shoulder. He taught you to keep going until you understood something or until you did it right.”

Bob Tschirhart, who worked with Winstein on KTeV and other fixed target experiments for more than a decade, still can hear Winstein’s words from time to time.

“His personality was extremely intense,” Tschirhart said. “When you were analyzing data, he wanted to make sure your logic was sound. If you said something stupid, he’d call you on it. It could be painful to be on the receiving end, but it made you a better researcher.”

It was Winstein’s tough love approach that endeared him to young researchers. Bernstein and Greg Bock, Fermilab’s associate director for research and a close colleague of Winstein’s, estimate that Winstein mentored more than 20 students during his career, and that those mentorships were life-long commitments.

“He was incredibly generous with his time toward students,” Bernstein said. “He had two phone lines installed in his house – his personal line and ‘the Bruce line,’ a dedicated line to particle physics.”

Winstein shared in the 2007 Panofsky Prize by the American Physical Society for outstanding achievements in experimental particle physics, mainly for work on the KTeV, which established the existence of matter-antimatter asymmetry in particle decays.

Winstein was particularly fond of precision measurement experiments, such as KTeV, where he could meticulously cross check the data. He carried that love into astrophysics later in his career.

“He was a great researcher,” Bock said. “Although Bruce is sorely missed, his influence lives on. He had a great impact on this field, both in personal and scientific ways.”

— Rhianna Wisniewski