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Dr. Daniel Pitonyak ’08 wins 2015 American Physical Society Group on Hadron Physics Dissertation Award
12.19.14 |
Lebanon Valley College alumnus Dr. Daniel Pitonyak ’08 was awarded the 2015 American Physical Society Group on Hadron Physics Dissertation Award for his thesis, “Exploring the Structure of Hadrons Through Spin Asymmetries in Hard Scattering Processes.” Students from all U.S. colleges and universities were eligible for the prestigious award and Dr. Pitonyak won from a group of 14 national finalists.

Dr. Pitonyak, who graduated from LVC with a double major in mathematics and physics, earned the College’s Outstanding Senior in Mathematics Award and the Outstanding Achievement Award in Physics. He was a member of the College’s nationally recognized Mathematical Physics Research Group where he conducted summer research in quantum computation and quantum information with Dr. David Lyons, professor of mathematical sciences, and Dr. Scott Walck, chair and professor of physics, and later presented his work at a student mathematics conference. He was also a four-year starter on the Dutchmen soccer team, starting every game from mid-freshman year on as a defender or midfielder, and won the John Walter Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award.

“I am excited and honored to receive this prestigious distinction, particularly considering all of the great research in hadronic physics being conducted throughout U.S. universities,” Dr. Pitonyak said. “The foundation of my physics and mathematics education, and research skills, came from my classes at LVC and time with the Mathematical Physics Research Group. It is a real testament to the College that a graduate can continue their education at such a high level and achieve something so significant in their respective field. Without the benefits of learning at a liberal arts institution and the close interaction with my professors, I don’t believe that I would have made it to this level.”

After graduating from LVC, Dr. Pitonyak earned his Ph.D. at Temple University in May 2013, where he worked with Prof. Andreas Metz. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at the RIKEN BNL Research Center at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton, NY, where he continues to work on his thesis focus.

Dr. Pitonyak’s thesis and current research deals with the internal spin structure of hadrons (e.g., protons and neutrons), with his main work centering on spin asymmetries in hard scattering processes. He recently co-authored several papers that have made significant progress toward explaining the phenomenon of transverse single-spin asymmetries in proton-proton collisions, which has been an unresolved issue for nearly 40 years. This research has also led to the first-ever phenomenological indication on the process dependence of the so-called Sivers function, which describes the distortion of quarks inside the proton due to its transverse spin. This characteristic was predicted more than a decade ago but lacks experimental proof. All of this work is a part of a broader objective to understand matter at its most basic, fundamental level.

“The American Physical Society (APS) is the preeminent professional organization of physics in the nation,” Dr. Walck noted. “These awards recognize distinctive work that has been judged to be the best in their research area among new Ph.D. recipients. For Lebanon Valley College to have two recent awardees [Dr. Katherine Myers Mesick ’05 earned the APS Dissertation Award in Nuclear Physics earlier this year] proves that we are able to provide students the foundation from which they can thrive and compete on a national level, and prepare students for prestigious graduate schools.” 


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Dr. Daniel Pitonyak ’08 wins 2015 American Physical Society Group on Hadron Physics Dissertation Award
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