Tom Schwarz wins 2011 Tollestrup Award

Tom Schwarz

When Tom Schwarz began working on CDF nearly eight years ago, he didn’t expect to contribute to potentially game-changing results. But Schwarz’s work on the measurements of top quark properties has earned him a chance to dream big and this year’s Tollestrup Award.

The Tollestrup Award is given annually for outstanding work conducted by a postdoctoral researcher at Fermilab or in collaboration with Fermilab scientists. Schwartz accepted the award Wednesday and gave a talk about his research during Fermilab’s annual Users’ Meeting.

“Many things I identify within those measurements I feel very proud of,” Schwarz said. “There are plenty of postdocs and graduate students working on these measurements. I feel honored.”

While the top quark was discovered in 1995, it has taken a long time to collect enough data to learn more about it. Collaborators such as Schwarz are now using that larger data set to gain more information about the top quark, the Standard Model and even to look for new physics. Schwarz, who is co-convener of CDF’s top quark group, is particularly excited about one 3-sigma top quark measurement that was the subject of his Ph.D. thesis.

As he explained it, in particle collisions involving protons and antiprotons, top quarks are produced in the directions that the particles are traveling. Schwarz and his collaborators found that more top quarks were produced in one direction, and that this asymmetry was a larger effect than the Standard Model predicted.

What it means, Schwarz explained, is there could be something strange happening in production. It also means that collisions are producing more top quarks than expected. Schwarz hopes that precision measurements from DZero or the LHC experiments can tell them why this happens.

“One of many possibilities is that there is a new particle produced just out of the Tevatron’s reach that is having an effect on the asymmetry,” Schwarz explained.

Emanuela Barberis, from Northeastern University and chair of the Tollestrup Award committee, said Schwarz’s work on a wide range of measurements and searches in the top quark sector was impressive, thoughtful and original.

“We had a very competitive group of submissions,” Barberis said. “Tom led measurements that pertain to both our fundamental understanding of the top quark and to new physics. The work he has done has helped make great strides in the field.”

The award, which is sponsored by Universities Research Association, Inc., highlights the work Schwarz has already done.

— Rhianna Wisniewski