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Helen Rhoda Quinn (born 19 May 1943 in Melbourne) is an Australian-born particle physicist whose contributions to the search for a unified theory for the three types of particle interactions (strong, electromagnetic, and weak) were recognized by several honors including the Dirac Medal of the International Center for Theoretical Physics.
Quinn went to school in Victoria, Australia and entered college at the University of Melbourne before moving to the USA and transferring to Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford in 1967, at a time when less than 2% of physicists were women. She did her postdoctoral work at the DESY (the German Synchrotron Laboratory) in Hamburg, Germany. She next spent seven years at Harvard University before returning to Stanford where she is now a professor of physics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
Working with Howard Georgi and Steven Weinberg, Quinn showed how the three types of particle interactions (strong, electromagnetic, and weak), which look very different as we see their impact in the world around us, become very similar in extremely high-energy processes and so might be three aspects of a single unified force. She also suggested a possible near-symmetry of the universe (now known as Peccei–Quinn symmetry) to explain how strong interactions can maintain CP-symmetry (the symmetry between matter and antimatter) when weak interactions do not. One consequence of this theory is a particle known as the axion which has yet to be observed but is one candidate for the dark matter that pervades the universe.
She showed how the physics of quarks can be used to predict certain aspects of the physics of hadrons (which are particles made from quarks) regardless of the details of the hadron’s structure (with Enrico Poggio and Steven Weinberg). This useful property is now known as quark-hadron duality.
She has given public talks in various countries on "The Missing Antimatter", in which she suggests that this area of research is promising.
Quinn has had a long term engagement in education issues. In California, she works with elementary and high school teachers to make physics fun and exciting for students. She chairs the Board on Science Education of the National Research Council (of NAS) and has served on a number of its studies. She chaired of the NRC study committee that developed “A Framework for K-12 Science Education” (NRC, 2012) to guide the development of multi-state standards for science education.
Her physics career was as follows:1
- 1967-70 Postdoctoral Fellow, Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron Hamburg, Germany
- 1971-72 Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University
- 1972-76 Assistant Professor, Harvard University
- 1976-77 Associate Professor, Harvard University
- 1977-78 Visiting Associate Professor, Stanford University
- 1978-79 Senior Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University
- 1979 - Staff Scientist, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University
- 1988 - Education and Public Outreach Manager, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University
- 2013 J. J. Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics American Physical Society
- Fellow and Past President, American Physical Society
- Member of the United States National Academy of Sciences
- Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- 2000 Dirac Medal of the International Center for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy (with Howard Georgi and Jogesh Pati) for pioneering contributions to the quest for a unified theory of quarks and leptons and of the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions
- 2005 appointed an Honorary Officer of the Order of Australia, "for service to scientific research in the field of theoretical physics and to education" (the award was honorary because Quinn was no longer an Australian citizen)2
- 2008 Oscar Klein medal from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
- Helen Quinn Interview about women in physics. National Academy of Sciences. 2013.
- R. D. Peccei, H. R. Quinn, CP conservation in the presence of pseudoparticles, Physical Review Letters, 38(1977) p. 1440
- T Appelquist, HR Quinn, Divergence cancellations in a simplified Weak Interaction Model," Physics Letters 39B: 229 (1972).
- H Georgi, HR Quinn, S Weinberg, Hierarchy of interactions in Unified Gauge Theories, Physical Review Letters 33: 451 (1974).
- Entry on Helen R. Quinn at the CWP Project of UCLA