Sri Lankan American Astronomer Ray Jayawardhana Featured in PBS / BBC Documentary | Global
Sri Lankan American astronomer Ray Jayawardhana shared his insights in the new PBS NOVA / BBC neutrino documentary, “Particles Unknown,” which airs on October 6.
Jayawardhana is Dean Harold Tanner of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University.
In the UK, BBC4 broadcast the documentary on September 22 with the title “Neutrino: Hunting the Ghost Particle”.
Surpassing the number of atoms from one billion to one, neutrinos are the most common but elusive and puzzling particle in the universe. The documentary followed an international team of neutrino hunters as they attempted to capture an elusive fourth form of neutrino. Their findings could force scientists to redraw their map of the subatomic world, the standard model of physics, and change our understanding of how the universe works.
“The reason we care about these elusive particles is that they play a fundamentally important role in the universe, in the nature of matter, in some of the most violent cosmic phenomena,” he said in the documentary.
Throughout “Particles Unknown,” Jayawardhana offers “his insight into the nature of neutrinos, their importance in the universe, and how scientists have fought against all odds to detect them for nearly a century.” , said producer and director Henry Fraser, quoted by Cornell Chronicle. “Ray’s interview provided the perfect tidbits of why we should all care about neutrinos, and his description of their hard-to-believe historical context helped move the narrative forward.”
Jayawardhana’s own research focuses on the diversity, origins and evolution of planetary systems as well as the formation and evolution of stars and brown dwarfs. In particular, his group uses the largest telescopes on the ground and in space to “remotely sense” planets around other stars (“exoplanets”), in order to study the prospects for life in the universe. .
He is a member of the core science team for the NIRISS instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope, and his group leads a large Gemini Observatory program on high-resolution spectroscopy of exoplanet atmospheres.
Jayawardhana’s research, writing and outreach has earned him many accolades including the Guggenheim Fellowship, Steacie Fellowship, Steacie Prize, McLean Prize, Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard University, Visiting Professor positions at the ‘Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, the Rutherford Medal in Physics from the Royal Society of Canada, the Nicholson Medal from the American Physical Society and the Carl Sagan Medal from the Planetary Sciences Division of the American Astronomical Society.
Before moving to Cornell, he was Dean of Science at York University, after a decade on the faculty of the University of Toronto. Prior to that, he held an Assistant Professor position at the University of Michigan and a Miller Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley. He got a doctorate. BS in Astronomy from Harvard University and BS in Astronomy and Physics from Yale University.